Substance Addiction in the Construction Industry

Bellagio In The Desert Residential Treatment Center


Construction work is a respected and worthwhile line of work. However, it can also place its workers at a higher risk for alcohol and substance abuse. Alcohol and substance use disorders affect all professions and vary by work industry.

However, addiction is at its highest among construction workers. The environment of construction work often supports a culture of substance use.

Substance Abuse Among Construction Workers

When compared to other occupations, recent studies show that construction workers are much more likely to use drugs. A study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reviewed nine years of federal drug use data. The study showed that construction workers are:

About 7.5 million people in the U.S. work in the construction and mining industries, many of them as hourly wage employees. Construction is one of the largest labor sectors in the United States. 

The industry has an overwhelmingly male workforce with an average pay of about $50,000 a year. Construction workers make up a large labor pool. Therefore,  it is essential to understand the impact substance use has on the workers.

The Construction Industry: Substance Use Statistics 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) report provides information about workers in all industries— including construction workers. The report states: 

  • About 12% of employees reported an alcohol or substance dependence in the past year. 
  • Approximately 1% of all employees have an opioid disorder. 
  • Illegal drug use was self-reported by 5% of employees in the last month.  While 17.5% of employees self-reported heavy alcohol use.

Data  shows that construction workers have higher substance use rates than the general population – in all categories. 

  • About 8.2% of all workers report the use of illegal or illicit drugs. In construction, the number is 13.7%
  • Roughly 2.6% of all workers report a dependence or abuse of illicit drugs. Approximately 5.1% of construction workers report illicit drug dependence or abuse. 
  • For all industries, almost 8.8% report using alcohol heavily. For construction workers, the number is 13.7%. 
  • About 9.2% of all workers report alcohol dependence or abuse. Construction workers, on the other hand, self-report alcohol dependence or abuse at 15.6%.

These numbers show that construction workers are at a higher risk of substance abuse and, overall, need support and intervention.

Opioid Abuse Among Construction Workers

Construction workers are at a higher risk of opioid overdose death than any other profession. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) construction workers account for 15% of overdose deaths in the workplace. However, they only make up about 7% of the workforce. 

Studies found that, the construction and mining industry made up about 26% of all opioid-related overdose deaths. This number is six times greater than the average rate for all other professions in the state.

Alcohol Abuse Among Construction Workers

Risky alcohol use and alcohol abuse is common in construction workers and higher than the national average. Construction workers younger than 25 or between the ages of 45 and 54 are more likely to abuse alcohol. Surrounded by heavy machinery and working under hazardous conditions, construction workers risk severe injury on a daily basis. Especially when they or their coworkers work while under the influence of alcohol or any other substance. 

A study found that 1 in 6 construction workers have witnessed a coworker under the influence of alcohol in the workplace. In a male-dominated industry like construction, alcohol consumption is typically the norm in social situations. In some instances, heavy alcohol use is accepted, sometimes even on-site. However, on-the-job alcohol consumption is a real danger on a construction site.

We Accept Most Major Insurance

Group 26
Group 25

Factors that Place Construction Workers at Higher Rates for Addiction

The construction industry poses unique environmental and societal factors that may impact the addiction to alcohol and substances. 

Social pressure. As a male-dominated industry, construction workers may feel social pressure to drink alcohol and self-medicate. When faced with an alcohol or substance use disorder, construction workers may hesitate to get help due to stigma or denial. 

Chronic stress. Construction work is high-stress and labor intensive, leading workers to seek relaxation at the end of the day. This relaxation may come in the form of alcoholic drinks or substance use to reduce workplace tension. This behavior places construction workers at risk for substance use disorders. 

Drug availability. A culture of heavy alcohol consumption and substance use is common within the construction industry. Because of this, a problem with alcohol or substance use may be less obvious to others. Also, the availability of alcohol and drugs can lead to dependence. 

Workplace injuries.  Construction workers are employed for the duration of a build through hourly pay. Then they may see a month or more of unemployment after the build is completed. Many construction workers work with little to no paid sick days or vacation days. 

As a result, there is a temptation to work even when injured and to work as many hours as possible. This desire to work may encourage self-medication, underreporting of injuries, and overuse of painkillers.

Construction workers operate in an environment that urges drinking and substance use. It is important that addiction treatment takes their work environment into consideration.

Addiction Treatment for Construction Workers

Addiction among construction workers is not uncommon. The strenuous work conditions and male-dominated social culture promote alcohol and substance use. Construction workers with addiction should know that they are not alone and help is available. Fortunately, addiction treatment can foster healing and recovery.

Bellagio In The Desert Residential Treatment Center offers a personal approach to inpatient treatment for all professions. We’re knowledgeable about the construction industry’s unique environment, and we can readily incorporate each individual’s needs into our treatment plans. 

Our experienced clinical staff combines a 12-step program with contemporary therapeutic techniques.  We offer detox, group therapy, and individual therapy to help make the life changes necessary for recovery. Contact us today to start the journey to recovery!