Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Monday, June 2, 2014

Occupations Where Workers Get High (or Don’t)

On a recent episode of This American Life, host Ira Glass identified several occupations as those in which workers have the greatest self-reported percentage of substance abuse, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. I checked for the source of this information and could not find any research later than 1993, when HHS conducted a household survey and later published the results as “Drug Use Among U.S. Workers: Prevalence & Trends by Occupation and Industry.”

It seems likely that the overall incidence of workplace substance abuse has declined since then, perhaps aided by the passage of the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 (even though that law applies only to federal contractors and federal grantees). At least, that is what is indicated by urine tests conducted on workers. Quest Diagnostics reports that between 1988 and 2012, the positivity rate for its urine tests showed a 74 percent drop-off (from 13.6 percent to 3.5 percent) for the U.S. workforce as a whole. Among those workers federally designated as in safety-sensitive occupations, the decline was smaller (only 38 percent), but dropped from an already-low percentage of 2.6 to 1.6.

The Quest Diagnostics report does not break down findings by occupational groups, but it quotes Mary Brown-Ybos, director of compliance for DISA Global Solutions, Inc., and president of Substance Abuse Program Administrators Association (SAPAA), as saying, “Some industries, such as the restaurant industry, have adopted an attitude that drug use in their industry is something they cannot control.”

The report also noted increases in some categories of drugs. Positivity almost tripled for amphetamine and methamphetamine. Prescription opiates also increased in use, with hydrocodone and hydromorphone more than doubling and oxycodone up by 71 percent.

For what they are worth, here are the findings of HHS from the early 1990s.

Ten Highest Rates of Current Illicit Drug Use, 1991–93
Rank
Occupation Category
Percentage Reporting Drug Use
1
Other Construction
17.3
2
Construction Supervisors
17.2
3
Food Preparation
16.3
4
Waiters and Waitresses
15.4
5
Helpers and Laborers
13.1
6
Writers, Designers, Artists, and Athletes
13.1
7
Janitors
13.0
8
Purchasing Agents and Buyers
12.9
9
Auto Mechanics
12.8
10
Construction Laborers; Other Laborers (tied)
12.8




Ten Lowest Rates of Current Illicit Drug Use, 1991–93
Rank
Occupation Category
Percentage Reporting Drug Use
1
Police and Detectives
1
2
Administrative Support
2.2
3
Teachers
2.3
4
Child Care Workers
2.6
5
Dental and Health Aides
2.8
6
Data Clerks
3.2
7
Records Processing Clerks
3.5
8
Computer Programmers and Operators
3.6
9
Engineers
3.9
10
Therapists
4





Ten Highest Rates of Heavy Alcohol Use, 1991–93
Rank
Occupation Category
Percentage Reporting Drug Use
1
Other Construction
20.6
2
Construction Laborers
19.9
3
Helpers and Laborers
19.5
4
Auto Mechanics
16.3
5
Food Preparation
16.3
6
Truck Drivers, Light
15.1
7
Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Mechanics and Repairers
14.9
8
Painters, Plasterers, and Plumbers
14.8
9
Carpenters
13.8
10
Material Moving Operators
13.8



Ten Lowest Rates of Heavy Alcohol Use, 1991–93
Rank
Occupation Category
Percentage Reporting Drug Use
1
Data Clerks
0.8
2
Personnel and Training Specialists
1.1
3
Secretaries and Typists
1.4
4
Bank Tellers
1.5
5
Bookkeepers
1.7
6
Clinical Laboratory and Technologists
2.2
7
Teachers
2.2
8
Dental and Health Aides
2.3
9
Computer Scientists and Analysts
2.4
10
Child Care Workers
2.6



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