Nearly 75 percent of chemically dependent individuals are gainfully employed. Substance use has a negative impact on productivity, morale, workplace safety, attendance, and employee health. Every year, U.S. companies lose billions of dollars because of their employee’s alcohol and drug use.
Whether it’s due to stressful work conditions, permissive attitudes toward alcohol and drugs, or wide availability, certain industries employ more drug users than others. We take a look at five industries with high rates of substance use and what employers can do to recognize signs of substance abuse and get their employees help.
Workers in the construction industries had the highest rates of past month heavy alcohol use at 16.5 percent. Experts believe stress and the absence of drug testing are reasons for the high figure. When controlling for gender and age differences, the finding remained true, which indicates there is something unique about heavy alcohol use in the construction industry. For example, when controlling for gender and age differences in the mining industry, the high rate of alcohol abuse did not remain, which means the heavy alcohol use rate can be attributed to the demographic composition of the mining industry.
Food and Service
A report from the Substance Use and Mental Health Services Administration dispelled the myth that the highest percentage of people suffering from addiction work in the entertainment industry when it found that 19.1 percent of people in the accommodations and food services industry reported past-month illicit drug use. Although stress, long shifts and fluctuating income are partly to blame, there is also the issue of alcohol and drug abuse being tolerated in the workplace. Alcohol misuse is also fuelled by the easy access to alcohol.
In an interview for the Huffington Post Canada, Canadian chef John Higgins said another factor was the pressure placed on employees by the industry motto: “You're only as good as your last dish.”
Sports and Entertainment
Although a SAMSHA study disproves the belief that the sports and entertainment industry has the highest rate of substance abuse, professionals in entertainment and sports do experience an above-average rate of addiction. More than 12 percent of full-time workers in arts, design, entertainment, sports and media report past-month illicit drug use.
There is a huge problem in the sports world with anabolic steroid misuse. Although stories of sports stars “doping” to gain an advantage over rivals have made the headlines, there has been little coverage of how steroid use can lead to drug dependency.
An article in the U.S. medical journal Crit Care Med estimates that between 10 percent and 15 percent of health Care professionals suffer from substance abuse. Although stress is again a clear factor, there is also the issue of easier access to prescription drugs and the proclivity for health care professionals to self-medicate.
Though not widely reported, addiction is prevalent within the United Kingdom medical system as well. The Express recently reported that 80 doctors and nurses were banned or temporarily suspended because of drug abuse. Citing a 2010 study, the article reports that 1 in 6 doctors in the UK have an alcohol or drug addiction.
The sales industry a high rate of addiction among its workers at 9.6 percent, according to SAMSHA research. This includes all professions associated with sales, from traveling salespeople to telesales staff and sales reps.
There are a number of possible triggers for addiction in this field: pressure to deliver results, volatile pay, constant travel and being away from the family. Integral to the culture are business meetings and socializing with clients over drinks. Additionally, the competitive nature of the industry makes it easy for sales agents to ignore their dependency problems as long as they keep delivering results, which only allows the problem to escalate.
What Should Employers Do
Instead of ignoring alcohol or drug abuse, employers should educate staff on the benefits of confronting their substance abuse issues and train supervisors in identifying and properly approaching the employee about an alcohol or drug problem.
Signs of employee substance abuse include, inconsistent quality work, poor concentration, lowered productivity, increased absenteeism, carelessness, mistakes, errors in judgment, needless risk taking, disregard for safety, and avoidance of friends and colleagues.
Human resource managers should have a risk assessment and a drug and alcohol misuse policy in place. There are specialized services that offer advice for management and HR staff on how to devise an internal policy on drug and alcohol misuse and on how to arrange health consultations for employees.
Many employers’ responses to an alcohol or drug problem is to fire the employee, but the benefits of intervening and helping someone to find a suitable treatment program can help to create a better performing, more motivated and safer workforce.
Castle Craig is a world-renowned residential rehab clinic that treats alcohol and drug addiction. Established in 1988, Castle Craig is Scotland's oldest and one of Europe's leading inpatient addiction clinics.