COVID-19 Resource Center

Study Identifies Workers Most Likely to Use Opioids

November 6, 2019Article

A study just released by New York University identified the groups of workers who are more likely to use drugs than workers in other professions, according to the Center for Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research (CDUHR) at NYU College of Global Public Health. The study results, published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence, concluded that workers in more physically-demanding jobs are the most likely to use cocaine and overuse prescription opioid medications. At the top of the list were construction workers. Miners and extractors were second. The researchers determined that the pitfalls of this type of work – falls, heavy-machinery and repetitive stress injuries – frequently result in self-medication by the workers. 

In turn, the use of drugs and opioid medications makes those workers even more vulnerable to injuries resulting from inattention on the job site. Even more alarming is the increased risk to those workers of opioid overdose deaths. CDUHR cites separate studies in Ohio and Massachusetts demonstrating that construction workers are six to seven times more likely to die from opioid overdoses compared to other groups. 

The study involved responses from more than 293,000 U.S. adults and covered more than a decade of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. After construction workers and miners, the researchers found that those workers in service jobs were also high risk of misuse of drugs and opioid medications. 

Nearly 7.5 million Americans work as hourly employees in the construction and mining and extraction industries; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this makes those groups one of the largest industrial sectors in the country. The group, which is predominantly male, earns on average less than $50,000 a year.

More than 10 million people misused prescription opioids in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 130 people die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, according to HHS.

The data released by CDUHR represents common-sense findings that provide an important insight into the impact of the opioid issues that are prevalent throughout the country. In order to effectively represent clients, it is vital to have an in-depth understanding of various kinds of demographic data that give rise to trends both regionally and nationally.