Americans working in construction and extraction jobs are facing a higher risk of deadly drug overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a new report that dives into the jobs with the most alarming rates of deadly drug overdoses. According to the document, the spotlight is on the construction and extraction workers, where the percentage of drug-related deaths is the highest (162.6 per 100,000 workers). Following closely are employees in food preparation and serving (117.9 per 100,000), as well as personal care and service workers (74 per 100,000). Transportation and material moving, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance, and installation, maintenance and repair jobs also made the list.
When it comes to individual census occupations, the highest drug death rates were seen in the fishing industry, followed by sailors and marine oilers, and roofers.
So, what’s driving these alarming statistics? Researchers believe that the construction industry is particularly prone to drug abuse because of the higher risk of getting injured on the job and being prescribed prescription pain medication, including prescription opioids, to deal with the injuries.
“Construction workers who have experienced work-related injuries are nearly four times more likely than uninjured workers to use prescription opioids,” the report reads.
Job security and lack of paid sick leave are also factors because if an injured worker returns to work before being fully healed, he or she has a higher risk of turning to drugs to cope with the pain.
When it comes to food preparation and serving-related occupations, researchers believe that injuries due to standing, walking and making repetitive motions are also to blame. However, the report also notes that employees deal with a lot of psychological stress interacting with customers, which sometimes leads them down the path of drug use as a coping mechanism. Plus, the industry seems to have more lenient norms around substance use. In fact, those in accommodation and food service have the highest rates of both illegal drug use and substance use disorders among all workers.
With the report revealing how some parts of the U.S. workforce are getting hit harder by drug overdose deaths, researchers say it’s a serious issue of health inequality and more should be done to shape a strategy to prevent future deaths.
“Findings in this report may inform the strategic priority to monitor, analyze, and communicate trends in drug overdoses within the framework for preventing overdoses and substance use-related harms,” researchers wrote.
The data for this report included people ages 15 to 64 from 46 states and New York City.