How to Combat Addiction and Alcohol Abuse in the Construction Industry

Construction is a physically and mentally tough industry, which comes with many safety risks. Besides physical hazards, workers are also at risk of mental health issues. Workers deal with high pressure from deadlines, material shortages, and low manpower. Not to mention the physical strain and hazards of working in the field.

Two of the main issues related to mental health are: addiction and substance abuse. These afflictions can be caused by and further exacerbate mental health problems. In the construction industry, in particular, addiction and abuse are fast growing problems.

In this post, we’ll give you some insight into these problems: the root issue, contributing factors, and the repercussions. We’ll also touch on how construction managers and supervisors can intervene to help or prevent these problems.

Workplace-Related Addiction

First, let’s talk about addiction in the workplace in general. Work stressors, whether they are safety risks or high-pressure environments, often take a huge toll on the psyche of workers, no matter their field.

In fact, the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) reports that around 70% of Americans who abuse drugs are employed. Additionally, most people who binge drink also have jobs. It’s clear then, that substance abuse and addiction have ties to the workplace.

This of course can have a negative impact on productivity and safety in the workplace. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or feeling withdrawal symptoms at work, often affects people’s efficiency while doing their jobs. It can also lead to safety hazards when workers are not of sound mind as it becomes easier to make errors.

What this means is that substance abuse can affect work just as much as work can contribute towards substance abuse. It’s a vicious cycle that managers and Human Resource departments need to address in order to create better work environments and provide the right support for employees.

Construction Workers And Substance Abuse

The construction industry is no exception to the problems of addiction and abuse in employed people. Let’s explore the problem in the context of the construction industry:

The problem

A study showed that people in the construction industry are the most likely to abuse drugs like cocaine and opioids. What’s more, SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) reports that construction workers have the second-highest rate of heavy alcohol use and addiction.

There’s a heavy drinking culture associated with construction work. And, of course, mental health issues do not do the problem any favors either.

The factors that contribute towards substance abuse

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the stress and safety risks that ultimately lead to substance abuse and addiction in the construction industry.

The book Addiction at Work: Tackling Drug Abuse and Misuse in the Workplace suggests that there are many reasons for these afflictions. Long hours, monotony, and a high-pressure and competitive environment can result in people turning to substances for comfort.

In this day and age, with the COVID-19 pandemic, there is also the issue of job security. Construction jobs are few and far between in comparison to previous years. Those that do have jobs often do not feel secure as businesses are closing down at a rapid rate all over the world. A lack of job security can also lead to addiction and alcohol abuse.

So, what are some of the repercussions and negative effects of this problem?

The repercussions in the workplace

When addiction and substance abuse is involved, mental health issues go up significantly. Many people turn to alcohol and drugs when they feel depressed or despondent. This can only exacerbate the effects of depression and anxiety.

But it’s not only mental health that is affected by these afflictions. Safety, too, is at a significant risk. A national study on alcohol-related occupational injuries reports that “approximately 16% of emergency room patients injured at work have alcohol in their system.”

Substance abuse also negatively affects productivity and efficiency in the workplace. This leads to slow or poor quality work, and this, in turn, can seriously tarnish the reputation of the construction company.

Intervention: How to Combat Addiction and Alcohol Abuse

It’s clear to see that abuse of substances affects the workplace, the people, and the company. So what can we do in terms of intervention and prevention?

Alcohol abuse is significant in the construction industry, and as such, it is in dire need of a solution. One of the best things to do to try and rectify this problem is to offer training workshops that promote both education and solutions.

Educate your staff on the dangers of substance abuse. Provide helpful resources. For example, inform workers on how they can get involved in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

It’s also important to remain vigilant and to keep checking in with your workers. There are often mental health issues and addictions that go unreported by employees. As a result, intervention can sometimes come too late.

Education and support are key. We know that this is a problem that has strong ties to the nature of the work in the construction industry. We also know that this problem can further contribute to safety risks. So, it is with an understanding nature that these issues should be addressed.

Final Thoughts

Addiction and alcohol abuse are without a doubt huge problems in the construction industry. Especially in the troubling times of a worldwide pandemic and economic uncertainty. Support, education, and resources for your workers are necessary to curb the negative effects of these afflictions.

Remain vigilant with your employees and try to mention these issues at safety stand downs and provide resources such as toolbox talks that expose the dangers of addiction – to mental health, physical health, and the family of the workers. It is important to show understanding and compassion while also making it clear that working under the influence cannot be tolerated.

SkillSignal is here to help. You can use our documents feature to assign toolbox talks on mental health, substance abuse, and much more. You can even take it a step further and assign training resources in the form of videos that all workers must complete before starting work. Are you interested in learning more? Contact us today at: 917-745-6877 or

Read More About the Mental Health Crisis in Construction Here:

  1. Suicide and Depression in the Construction Industry
  2. Tackling Mental Health in Construction

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