© steheap/Adobe Stock
© steheap/Adobe Stock

Construction workers are more likely to use drugs such as opioids, cocaine, and marijuana than workers in other professions, research from the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research at the NYU College of Global Public Health finds. The study, published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, shows that the high injury rate in the industry can lead many workers to treatment and self-treatment with pain medications, such as marijuana or opioids.

“Construction workers are at an increased risk for drug use, which makes them vulnerable to work-related injuries or even overdose deaths,” said Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU College of Global Public Health, deputy director of CDUHR, and the study’s lead author. In Ohio and Massachusetts, recent studies have demonstrated that construction workers were six to seven times more likely than other workers to die from an opioid overdose.

Using a decade of data (2005-2014) from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, Ompad and her colleagues analyzed responses from 293,492 participants. They compared 16,610 construction, extraction, and mining workers (who made up 5.6% of the sample) to those working in 13 other occupations. Participants were asked about their employment and workplace drug policies, as well as whether they used drugs including marijuana and cocaine within the past month. They were also asked about their use of opioids for non-medical reasons, such as taking opioids not prescribed to them or taking them only for the experience of getting high.

The researchers found that, compared to all other professions, construction workers had the highest prevalence of misusing prescription opioids (3.4% vs. 2%) and cocaine use (1.8% vs. 0.8%). Construction workers also had the second highest prevalence of marijuana use after those in service jobs (12.3% vs. 12.4%, compared with 7.5% in non-construction occupations).

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