It probably goes without saying that construction work is physically demanding. Workers in this field often spend long hours outside in the hot sun, and their work requires heavy lifting and a significant amount of time spent on their feet. What may be less obvious about the construction industry is an underlying problem among these workers: a heightened risk of addiction.

Prevalence of Substance Abuse in Construction Workers

Substance abuse is more prevalent in construction workers when compared to the general population in the United States. Among people aged 18-25, about 8.4 percent are heavy alcohol users within a given month, and 6 percent of those aged 26 and above use alcohol heavily. Additionally, 8.4 percent of the general population experiences a substance use disorder within a given year. On the other hand, 16.5 percent of construction industry workers drink heavily within a given month, and 14.3 percent meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, which is the clinical term for an addiction, within a year. Among the trades with the highest rates of heavy drinking and substance use disorders, construction workers rank second in both categories, respectively.

A study with a sample of 1,636 construction workers from Missouri revealed that alcohol abuse is especially problematic in this industry. One-fifth of the sample indicated that they consumed alcohol daily or almost daily, and 13.2 percent of them reported that they consumed 20 or more drinks in a given week. Nearly one-third of the construction workers admitted they had engaged in binge drinking at least five times in the 30 days prior to the study. Binge drinking was significantly higher among construction workers in the study when compared to a control group in the general population. Construction workers were also more likely to smoke cigarettes.

Causes of Substance Abuse in the Construction Field

With substance abuse being prevalent in the construction industry, researchers have taken an interest in the causes of drug and alcohol abuse in this field. A 2019 study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that construction workers were more likely to use marijuana, cocaine, and opioids than non-construction workers were. Missing days of work due to illness and injury increased the risk of opioid use specifically, suggesting that construction workers may use these drugs to self-medicate.

Construction workers may turn to drugs to self-medicate pain and injury that arises from the physical demands of the work, but this isn’t the only reason that those in this field may turn to substance abuse. Another study with construction workers found that they used drugs to cope with financial stress. The body of research with construction professionals suggests that this career in general produces high rates of distress and takes a toll on the body. In fact, a recent study found that 15.7 percent of construction workers had substantial mental distress, and nearly three-fourths indicated they had experienced some sort of pain, such as neck pain, foot pain, or back pain during the preceding three months. Drugs and alcohol may provide a temporary relief or distraction from physical and mental ailments.

Treatment for Construction Workers with Addiction

Substance abuse in the construction field may be a side effect of the challenges associated with this career. Construction professionals may turn to drugs to cope with physical pain from manual labor, to treat injuries, or to find relief from job-related distress. Financial strains associated with the seasonal nature of some construction jobs can also create distress that leads to substance abuse. While construction workers may find temporary relief from physical and mental health problems through the use of substances, as an addiction develops, these problems are likely to worsen. Furthermore, coming to work under the influence or while suffering from withdrawal can lead to poor performance and even serious or fatal workplace accidents.

Remote Addiction Treatment Options

It is therefore critical that construction workers who are suffering with substance abuse seek help so they can find healthier ways of coping with distress. If you or a loved one works in construction and you are unable to stop using drugs or alcohol, even in the face of consequences, such as inability to perform your job, iRecoveryUSA is here to help. We offer 100% remote addiction treatment via our telehealth app, so you can receive drug and alcohol counseling from the privacy of home. Contact us today to get started.