10 Jobs That Commonly Drive Employees to Drug and Alcohol Abuse

There are patterns and trends for substance use. For certain professions in which this kind of use is common, there are almost always obvious, definitive reasons that those working in these industries struggle with dependency issues. While there are myriad factors that contribute to jobs that have drug problems, most of these workplaces feature some combination of stress, heavy workload, physical toll, and long hours.

While this list focuses mainly on illicit drug abuse, heavy alcohol use is also considered. The following professions drive workers to use drugs on the job, in their free time, or both.

Some professions with high drug abuse rates are predictable, such as jobs within the entertainment industry. Others have less predictable patterns. For example, positions in the real estate sector are among the jobs with the highest drug abuse rates. From the predictable to the bizarre, here are the industries in which substance use is highly likely to occur.

Photo: Paramount

  • Food Service

    Use of illicit substances in the food service industry is well-documented through books, television shows, and movies. These fictional and nonfictional accounts often depict issues among servers, bartenders, and chefs. While some of these may seem hyperbolic, the frightening reality is that nearly 17% of workers in the food service industry suffer from dependency issues. This is according to a study done between 2008 and 2012.

    Substance use is said to be common in food service largely because of the hectic work environment. Workers often have extremely long shifts that go deep into the night, and the pace of the work is usually fast and frantic. This environment creates a culture in which use is accepted, and sometimes even expected. In bars and restaurants, workers are in the presence of alcohol all night.

  • Construction

    The physical toll of the construction industry might be what drives workers to substance dependency. Construction workers often work long hours doing manual labor, which puts strain on the body. This strain makes it easy for workers to over-use substances, especially anything that helps to numb the body, like prescription opiods.

    Construction is a dangerous job to begin with, so substance use in the workplace is a huge concern for workers and employers alike. The stress of temporary employment and lack of health insurance may also lead some construction workers to seek relief in controlled substances and alcohol. 


  • Entertainment

    It’s no secret that use of habit-forming substances is popular in the entertainment industry. Celebrities perish every year from overusing illicit substances, and many musicians document these issues in their songs. Illicit substances are part of the Hollywood culture, and many drugs are casually consumed at parties, after-parties, and even on movie sets. Variety even released a special addiction recovery issue in 2019, aimed at shifting the entertainment industry toward a healthier future.

    According to a 2008-2012 study of employees in the arts, entertainment, and recreation, nearly 14% of workers reported controlled substance use in the past month. About 13% of entertainment industry workers reported dealing with a substance use disorder within the past year.

  • Mining

    There are two primary reasons the mining industry has many workers who struggle with dependency. The first reason is that mining's a physically taxing job, and miners tend to be frequently exhausted and in pain, which can be alleviated with substance use. The second reason is that many of these workers have lost their jobs after the coal industry's collapse.

    Pain and joblessness have lead to the epidemic use of opioids and other drugs in states where coal mining once supported the economy.


  • Management

    The management industry is one of the rare industries that has a higher rate of controlled substance use than alcohol use. While management is broadly defined in this study as "Management of companies and enterprises, administration, support, waste management, and remediation services," one might infer that the high-stress and high-power nature of management jobs contributes to use. Substances are often used to help workers maintain the energy needed for such demanding positions or to relax at the end of a hard day.

    Although managers are responsible for creating an environment free of controlled substances, they themselves often struggle to stay clear of the issue. However, substance use disorder among those in management declined slightly between 2008-2012 and 2003-2007.

  • Information Technology

    Substance use in the information industry is driven by a multitude of factors. In Silicon Valley, for example, the work atmosphere tends to be fast-paced and highly competitive, with tight deadlines. Workaholic personalities are rewarded in the information industry, and the drive to maintain high levels of productivity may lead to the use of habit-forming products.

    Additionally, young age and wealth are two characteristics that commonly lead to use, and many information industry workers have one or both of these traits. Whether it’s to keep the motor running, unwind after a crazy day, or fit into a unique culture, many in this industry utilize substances, and the number unfortunately seems to be growing.