Jobs/Careers With High Rates Of Addiction

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Substance abuse affects all working professionals, regardless of their industry, role, or experience level. However, some industries are affected more than others. Leadership can support employees’ mental health through substance use prevention efforts and other measures.

Jobs/Careers With High Rates Of Addiction

Substance abuse does not discriminate when it comes to the workplace — or anywhere else. It affects every age, race, gender, income tier, and education level.

People with addiction can be found in every career and at all experience levels. However, some industries are associated with higher rates of substance abuse than others.

While these industries differ vastly, many of them share some common stressors. High pressure and poor work-life balance may drive some workers to use substances as a coping mechanism.

Industry Rate Of Addiction
Body Builders 67% abuse steroids
First Responders 16-40%
Active-Duty Military Members 34%
Lawyers 20.6%
Restaurant 19.1%
Hospitality 19.1% (illicit drug abuse), 10% (alcohol abuse)
Construction Workers 15%
Entertainment 15%
Veterans 12%
Miners 11.8%
Marketing Industry 11.7% (drug abuse), 8.1% (alcohol abuse)
Salespeople 10.5% (retail sales workers), 10.4% (wholesale salespeople)
Farmers 10.5%
Manufacturing Industry 9.3% to 10.4%
Executives/Managers 10%
Real Estate Agents 10%
Financial Professionals 9.5%
Architects 8%
Teachers 5.5%
Athletes 4.4% to 4.7% abuse opioids

Rates Of Substance Abuse By Industry

Substance abuse affects some industries more than others. However, addiction remains apparent, on some level, in all industries.

Keep reading to learn more about some of the professions with high rates of substance abuse compared to the general population (7.5% of Americans).

Addiction Among Medical Professionals

Doctors, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare providers offer guidance and treatment for their patients’ health through scheduled visits and, in some cases, also emergencies.

However, with a high level of responsibility comes stress. Chronic stress can lead to substance abuse, and about 10% to 15% of healthcare workers abuse substances at some point in their lives.

Prescription drug abuse is five times higher among these workers. Addiction among healthcare workers can have life-threatening implications for these professionals and the patients they serve.

Addiction In The Restaurant Industry

Patience and people skills are two traits that food service workers learn to master. In this customer-centric industry, little attention may be paid to employees’ well-being.

Restaurant employees work long hours, often including nights, weekends, and holidays. This could contribute to the high rate of drug and alcohol abuse in the industry (19.1%).

Heavy alcohol use in the restaurant industry is among the highest compared to other industries. Creating a substance use-free work environment is one way that establishments can help prevent addiction in the restaurant industry.

Addiction In The Hospitality Industry

People look to the hospitality industry to let loose, have fun, and relax. From hotels and amusement parks to restaurants and bars, hospitality focuses on the customer experience.

Working to make customers happy often requires hustling through long hours, late nights, and early mornings, often in high-stress conditions.

Some hospitality workers may turn to substances to remain awake and alert and meet their responsibilities.

Addiction in the hospitality industry is centered largely around heavy drinking. Approximately 10% of hospitality workers will experience alcohol abuse, and the likelihood continues to rise.

Addiction In The Entertainment Industry

The entertainment industry carries the impression of fame, fortune, and glamour. But for many singers, songwriters, actors, producers, and dancers, fame comes with a cost to mental health.

The pressure to perform, meet the public’s expectations, and always look their best may lead some entertainers down the pathway of addiction.

Alcohol consumption is the highest, with some 15% of industry workers engaging in heavy drinking. The use of illegal drugs is also common, affecting about 10% of workers.

Learn more about addiction in the entertainment industry

Addiction Among Lawyers

Civil and criminal lawyers earn a living by representing their clients. However, developing the reputation of being a good lawyer hinges on their ability to win cases, which can be stressful.

The legal field is known for its high-stress environment, which often begins even before attending law school.

One in five lawyers experience alcohol abuse. Though addiction among lawyers is prevalent, it’s also largely underreported.

Addiction Among Construction Workers

Working in the construction industry often takes a toll, both mentally and physically. Early mornings, long hours, and adverse weather are everyday parts of the job.

Addiction among construction workers is higher than in all other blue-collar trades, apart from mining.  Opioid abuse is of particular concern.

To overcome injuries and continue to work, construction workers may be prescribed opioid painkillers, which are highly addictive.

Addiction Among Executives/Managers

Executives and managers are responsible for overseeing the performance of other workers, departments, and even entire companies.

While many of these decision-making professionals earn more than their cohorts, their jobs may also come with greater demands and expectations.

Job obligations, stress, and sometimes poor work-life balance may contribute to the fact that addiction among executives/managers is somewhat common, at a rate of about 10%.

Addiction Among Salespeople

In the sales industry, the push is to sell and then sell some more. Armed with charisma, social skills, and the ability to negotiate, salespeople work to become the face of a company or brand.

These and other stressors may influence the high rates at which salespeople experience addiction, which is 10.5% of retail sales workers and 10.4% of wholesale salespeople.

Addiction among salespeople may also be fueled by the heavy drinking in this industry. It is common for salespeople to network at events where alcohol is served, or treat prospective clients to dinner and drinks.

Addiction Among First Responders

When there’s a crime, accident, medical emergency, or natural disaster, first responders are, as their title indicates, often the first ones on the scene.

These professionals witness the aftermath of illness, abuse, death, and destruction and are tasked with addressing the aftereffects.

Not all police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians find it easy to move forward from their on-the-job experiences.

High-stress experiences and trauma could contribute to the high rate of substance abuse among first responders, which ranges from 16 to 40% depending on the job.

Addiction Among Active-Duty Military Members

Military members are asked to make the ultimate sacrifice of leaving their lives and loved ones behind to serve our country.

Service members may be thrown into new experiences in faraway places that are much different than what they’re used to, facing repeated high-stress situations.

Stress and trauma may affect the high rate of addiction among active-duty military members (34%), which largely involves alcohol abuse.

Addiction Among Veterans

When military members return home from deployment, they face the overwhelming challenge of integrating back into civilian life.

The stress of reintegration combined with possible combat exposure and difficulties securing employment and housing may contribute to the high addiction rate among military veterans.

Approximately 2.4 million veterans, or 12% of the veteran population, experience substance abuse. There are services in place to support veterans and reduce addiction rates, but there is still far more work to be done.

Addiction Among Miners

In the mining industry, one small mistake can have catastrophic consequences. Miners’ work is also often physically difficult, with added challenges including claustrophobia, being trapped, darkness, and extreme temperatures.

Along with the pressure around safety and performance, miners also tend to work in remote areas. These workers may be isolated from family and friends for months at a time.

Likely due to these reasons and more, addiction rates among miners are high, affecting 11.8% of the mining industry.

Addiction Among Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents are tasked with helping clients buy, sell, and rent properties. This can be exciting for both the client and realtor but also very stressful.

While not all real estate agents work for commission, most of them do. With commission-based pay comes the added pressure of knowing that if they don’t make a sale, they aren’t getting paid.

Real estate agents face similar stresses as salespeople, which may affect the rate of addiction among real estate agents, at around 10%.

Addiction Among Engineers

Engineering firms are known to enforce strict alcohol and drug policies. Substance use on the job is viewed as gross negligence and can carry severe penalties.

Drug use is less common than alcohol abuse among engineers. However, cannabis is the most commonly abused illicit drug among engineers; a finding that’s consistent with the general population.

Addiction Among Architects

From apartment complexes to skyscrapers, architects create designs for buildings to ensure their functionality, stability, and aesthetics.

Required to simultaneously manage a budget, schedule, and client expectations, architects face a lot of on-the-job stress.

The rate of substance abuse among architects is known to be approximately 8% percent, but the actual figure is believed to be higher. Alcohol is a popular substance of abuse.

Addiction In The Manufacturing Industry

The U.S. manufacturing industry employs more than 15 million people, not only in factories, but also in bakeries, tailoring businesses, or at home.

Many manufacturing workers, especially factory workers, experience high stress, low job control, and long, irregular work hours.

Rates of addiction in the manufacturing industry range from 9.3 to 10.4%. About 10% of workers report alcohol abuse, and one in 13 report using drugs within the past month.

Addiction Among Financial Professionals

Financial professionals face the demanding task of managing assets on behalf of individuals and businesses. The financial industry is highly competitive and becoming more so every year.

Many of these professionals face extreme pressure from clients to consistently meet their expectations. These demands often require them to work long hours under high stress.

Nearly one in 10 financial professionals experience substance abuse.

Addiction Among Truck Drivers

Truck drivers are often required to drive long hours each work day. Experienced truckers drive an average of 3,000 miles a week, or about 430 miles a day.

In fulfilling their job, truck drivers spend a lot of time in solitude, isolated from friends and family.

Isolation, stress, exhaustion, and more may contribute to the rate of substance use disorders among truck drivers, which often involves stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine.

Addiction Among Athletes

For professional athletes, success relies heavily on their physical condition. Excelling in a sport is taxing on both the mind and body, as athletes need to be able to perform consistently well.

Regardless of the sport, athletes face a high level of competition. Many athletes must make sacrifices to remain on par with other players, which often affects their personal lives.

This could contribute to the fact that binge drinking and steroid use are common. Rates of addiction among athletes differ for each sport, with the highest rate among bodybuilders and the use of steroids (67%).

Addiction Among Farmers

Farmers earn a living by raising animals or plants, or by leasing their land to another farmer or corporation. These agricultural professionals often work seven days a week.

Regardless of the amount of work put in, farmers still face the prospect of crop damage and poor growing seasons. This can greatly impact their income.

Addiction among farmers affects 10.5% of the industry. An especially high rate of farmers abuse alcohol (32%) compared to non-farmers, while 26% of farmers have abused opioids.

Addiction Among Teachers

Teachers have the hefty job of guiding their students to learn new skills and subjects. This involves a number of stressors, including disciplining students, dealing with parents, and more.

Stressful working conditions and historically low pay may contribute to the fact that about 5.5% of teachers have a substance use disorder. Addiction among teachers mostly involves alcohol (4.7%).

Addiction In The Tech Industry

Technology is a fast-growing industry that involves developing, maintaining, and repairing software for a wide range of clients and businesses.

Tech industry workers are constantly pushed to innovate, which creates high stress that can lead to burnout. It might also be the reason why addiction in the tech industry has increased.

Approximately 10% of tech workers experience substance abuse, with some 8.6% engaging in heavy drinking.

Addiction In The Marketing Industry

Marketing professionals work to create advertisements and campaigns to sell products and increase sales. This often involves juggling multiple projects and deadlines.

Rates of substance abuse in the marketing industry include 8.1% for alcohol abuse and 11.7% for drug abuse.

What The Numbers Mean

Although the above-mentioned numbers provide a general understanding of how addiction touches different industries, these statistics don’t provide deeper insights.

In order to better understand why addiction affects certain industries more than others, researchers must conduct scientific studies.

Scientific Vs. Correlational Research

Much of addiction research consists of scientific and correlational studies. While both are helpful, they offer different types of information.

Scientific research is essentially the investigation of a hypothesis. Researchers start with a certain thesis that is descriptive, explanatory, or exploratory in nature.

Correlational research explores the relationship between two or more variables. It is non-experimental, which means that researchers observe rather than manipulate any of the factors involved.

Because no factors are controlled, it cannot be said that one factor causes the other. In this case, we can’t conclude, for example, that working in the restaurant industry, or any industry, causes addiction.

We can, however, look at other data that supports what workers in a particular field may be experiencing that leads them to use substances.

Factors That May Affect Substance Use Among Workers

There are a myriad of contributing factors that may influence substance abuse among working professionals.

For example, chronic stress and addiction are often related, as people may self-medicate using drugs or alcohol to relieve pressure, which can develop into substance abuse.

Factors that may influence addiction among workers include:

  • high levels of stress
  • lack of support from human resources or management
  • long, excessive work hours
  • physically demanding work
  • limited control over working conditions
  • sexual harassment in the workplace
  • isolated working conditions
  • boredom
  • lack of supervision
  • low levels of recognition
  • availability of alcohol or drugs
  • lack of substance abuse policies in the workplace

How Employers Can Support Mental Health In The Workplace

Many people with drug or alcohol addiction also experience other mental health issues.

Anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are commonly diagnosed together with substance abuse.

With almost one in 10 workers experiencing substance abuse, it’s crucial that employers provide the support needed to help workers achieve and maintain good mental health.

Employers can help support mental health in the workplace through: 

  • mental health insurance coverage
  • substance-free workplace programs (or, if not realistic, substance use-free)
  • ADA education

Mental Health Insurance Coverage

Not all insurance plans provide mental health coverage. The requirements of employer-provided health insurance differ in each state.

Though providing mental health insurance coverage may come at a higher initial cost for employers, it ultimately saves them time and money. Health insurance is also tax-deductible for employers.

When employees are allowed the proper treatment for their mental health concerns, it equates to superior performance and reduced absenteeism. Happier employees make for a better workplace atmosphere and stronger workplace satisfaction.

Mental health insurance coverage for employers may include access to:

  • substance abuse and recovery programs
  • counseling services
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Drug-Free Workplace Programs

To enforce a drug-free workplace, or drug use-free workplace, employers require their employees to agree to policies that discourage alcohol and drug use and encourage substance abuse treatment programs.

Such policies recognize that substance abuse can affect anyone, and thus do not discriminate against employees who experience it.

Rather, these policies serve to protect employees’ well-being and provide the support needed to help them.

To qualify as a drug-free workplace, employers must provide: 

  • a drug-free workplace policy
  • education on substance abuse and its effect on the workplace for employees
  • supervisor training
  • drug testing
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

The ADA And Employees In Addiction Recovery

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers are not legally required to offer employees rehabilitation instead of enforcing disciplinary action for being under the influence at work or exhibiting compromised performance.

Although addiction is considered a disability because of the way it impairs the brain and neurological activity, alcohol and drug abuse are treated differently under the ADA.

Alcohol use disorder is considered a disability, whether a person is in recovery or not. Drug abuse is only protected under the ADA if a person is in recovery and no longer abusing drugs.

The ADA prohibits an employer from firing an employee on the sole basis that the employee is using drugs or alcohol. However, the employer can fire this employee if their usage poses a risk to or affects their workplace responsibilities.

Costs Of Untreated Addiction Among Employees

Substance abuse costs U.S. employers $81 billion a year. For employees in executive roles with higher-than-average salaries, substance abuse costs employers about $14,000 per employee annually.

The employer-accrued costs of substance abuse are due to:

  • employee turnover
  • costs related to recruitment of new employees
  • lost productivity
  • absenteeism
  • health care costs
  • workplace accidents
  • disability and workers’ compensation costs

The longer that an employee continues to experience substance abuse without any support, the more it will cost their employer in the long run to manage the related issues.

Accessible Addiction Treatment Options For Workers

Though inpatient rehabilitation may be necessary for some employees to achieve sobriety, it is not the only treatment option available, nor is it feasible for everyone.

Employers, especially those that provide coverage for mental health, can educate their employees on other available resources, such as the SAMHSA National Helpline, talk therapy, and outpatient services.

These employers can also provide their employees with information on low-cost or no-cost treatment centers, such as the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers.

Employers can also provide reassurance through second-chance employment, or allowing an employee to return after completing drug or alcohol treatment.

Find Treatment For Substance Use Disorders

If you or a loved one is facing drug or alcohol abuse, help is available. Contact for information on available treatment options and begin your journey of recovery today.

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