Construction workers and others handling heavy duty machinery in hazardous conditions are more likely to misuse prescription opioid medication and use cocaine than other workers, according to a study released Thursday.
Some 3.4% of workers in the construction, mining and extraction industries reported past month non-prescription opioid use, compared to a 2% usage rate for other professions, it found. Some 1.8% of those workers used cocaine compared to 0.8% for other jobs.
More than 12% also reported using marijuana during the past month, versus 7.5% for non-construction jobs. (More than 10 states allow recreational use and over 30 states authorized medical marijuana.)
“It makes sense that we see higher rates of construction workers using pain-relieving substances such as opioids and marijuana, given the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries,” said professor Danielle Ompad, who teaches at the New York University College of Global Public Health.
Ompad, the lead author, and other researchers sifted through National Survey on Drug Use and Health data between 2005 and 2014. People in the construction, mining and extraction business accounted for more than 16,500 of the roughly 293,500 responses.
There were approximately 7.5 million construction workers, according to preliminary September data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and another 161,300 people working in oil and gas extraction, the agency said. That’s about 5% of the entire non-farm 151.7 million-person workforce.
The industries had a 12.2% fatal injury rate in 2017, more than triple the national 3.5% average, Bureau of Labor Statistics information.
A separate 2017 study found that, along with the construction industry, the entertainment, recreation and food service businesses had two times the national average number of employees with substance use disorders.
Earlier this year, Quest Diagnostics
a company performing drug-test laboratory work, said there were double-digit increases in drug detection for six of 17 sectors. The tests look for the presence of drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine and opiates.