Construction Workers Most Likely to Use Opioids, Cocaine

Researchers at the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health have released the results of a study. It found that construction workers are more likely to use drugs than people working in other professions.

The research findings, which were published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, indicate that construction workers are most likely of people in all industries to “use cocaine and misuse prescription opioids (take them for nonmedical purposes).” They are also the “second most likely” group of workers to use marijuana.

Industry Considered Hazardous for Pain Management

Along with mining and oil and gas extraction, the construction industry is one of the largest in the country. It’s also one of the hazardous for workers, with risks of injuries from overexertion, falls and being caught in or struck by heavy machinery a hazard. Injuries from repeated physical effort from a particular muscle group can lead workers to self-treat with opioids or marijuana to get symptom relief. Workers also visit their doctor and request opioids for job-related injuries.

Danielle Ompad, an associate professor of epidemiology at NYU College of Global Public Health, deputy director of DCUHR, and study’s lead author, explained that construction workers are at a higher risk for drug use. This increased risk makes them “more vulnerable to work-related injuries or even overdose deaths.”

Researchers Reviewed Decade of Data if Drug Abuse

Professor Ompad and her colleagues reviewed 10 years of data from 2005-2014 from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Taking responses from 293,492 participants making up a representative sample of US adults, the researchers compared 10,610 oil and gas extraction, mining and construction industry workers (approximately 5.6 percent of the sample) to workers from 13 other job types.

• Participants were asked about their job and the drug policies at their workplace and whether they had used drugs (including cocaine and marijuana) within the last 30 days.
• They were also asked whether they had used opioids for nonmedical purposes. This means taking opioids prescribed for someone else or taking opioids (either prescription medications or illicit drugs) only to get high.

Construction workers were more likely than other professions to misuse prescription opioids (3.4 percent of workers vs. 2 percent overall) and to use cocaine (1.8 percent vs. 0.8 percent). They had the second-highest rate of marijuana use after people working in service jobs (12.3 percent vs. 12.4 percent, compared with workers in non-construction fields).