A study by New York University recently found that, of all industries, construction is the most likely to see abuse of drugs like prescription opioids and cocaine. Employees in the construction industry are also the second most likely to regularly use marijuana, besides those in the service industry. 

It is important to note that these studies are not able to differentiate between safe prescription usage and harmful abuse. For this reason, employee removal as a result of strict drug testing may be unfair and potentially result in legal action against the company. 

That being said, when it comes to prescription opioids, something that begins as medical treatment can quickly turn into dependency. For this reason, it is important to recognize the signs and address potential issues quickly, before serious damage is caused to the individual, company, or project. 

Reasons Behind Drug Abuse in the Construction Industry 

Substance abuse is more likely to happen in certain situations than others. Job instability, for example, can lead to problems. This is likely due to the added stress of not knowing if they will be able to make ends meet, which can lead to depression. Or, when not working, the individual might just have more time on their hands. 

A higher instance of work-related injuries is another big contributor to drug abuse in the construction industry. The work can be very physically demanding and the employee may use drugs in order to deal with the pain. As mentioned above, this could start with an innocent trip to the doctor’s office, but evolve into addition.   

How Employers Can Address This Issue

Drug abuse is a difficult issue to tackle. In many situations, it may not even be clear that someone has an issue. There are many opioid and marijuana users who may appear “normal” while on the job, but if they are using there is still a risk of injury to self or cause an oversight that could cause further harm down the line. 

Employers in the construction industry should seek out insurance providers that carefully monitor opioid prescriptions to help ensure that they are not being abused. Beyond that, employees should communicate that there is a zero-tolerance policy while making themselves available to help employees and identifying assistance programs. 

The Final Word 

When it comes to working in construction – or other safety-sensitive positions – no amount of drug usage is safe. Employers can help curb this issue by being more aware of the signs and symptoms, and then by helping employees deal with these problems, should they arise. 


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