Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Construction Industry: Analytical Essay

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Summary Paper

Drug and alcohol abuse in the construction industry has some of the highest rates of substance abuse and disorders in comparison to other industries in the U.S. Throughout our task force assignments I was able to research and collected information that sheds light on some of the social issues regarding drug and alcohol abuse in the construction industry. I feel the best way to approach the problem is to hold the employers and employees to the highest standards regarding the issue. After all the issue affects the employer, employee and the society around them if not held accountable for their auctions as an employer and employee the issue will not lessen.

I am going to start with the known facts of Drugs and Alcohol abuse in the construction industry and studies done regarding this problem. According to a study that was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence shows that construction workers are most likely to use cocaine, misuse prescription opioids of all occupations, and are the second most likely to use marijuana. One study that was done by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health from 2011-2015 found that 25% of workers in Massachusetts that fatally overdosed on opioids were construction workers. They found that construction workers were six times more likely to fatally overdose on these drugs than other workers that were studied according to the report. They also found that these workers are prone to prescription painkiller abuse, which is known to lead to illegal drug use because of the physical demands of the job and aging of the workforce. Studies done by the Canadian Construction Industry Rehabilitation Plan found that 83% of their clients suffered from mental health issues between the ages of 30 and 40 years old. These are just a few studies that give us alarming facts regarding drug abuse in the construction industry; there thousands of studies that provide even more details that are shocking.

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When I think of ranking the facts that the studies give regarding the issue I believe that the safety of everyone should be the most important one. Not only the safety of the abuser but the safety of those who are around them when they are working or out in public while impaired but their family as well when dealing with the emotional and harmful side effects of a drug user. Next would be why those who are in the construction industry are using drugs more than other industries and what the underlying issue is that could help lower the problem. After ranking the facts by importance then it is time to decide who should be responsible for deciding and acting on the social problem. I believe that it needs to be a group effort to truly make an impact on the problem. The group should include the employees, employers (safety, human resource, and management), families, OSHA, and government regulators. If this group isn’t successful the risk continues the consequences of their action or inaction could lead to people getting hurt or killed, ruined relationships, company liability, harm to health, the image given to children, unproductive and poor work, loss time and money, and loss of a job.

What causes the problem of substance abuse in the construction industry can be for multiple reasons. Just as our text mentioned in Chapter 2 regarding Drugs and Alcohol abuse can be caused by group norms and the peer pressure to fit in. Homes that do drugs in front of children often lead to children doing drugs themselves starting at an early age. Children who come from a broken family or have poor relationships with their parents also lead to early drug abuse. In the construction industry long hard days leave for body pains, depression, and often family issues while on the road. The use can be started simply by having a social life outside of work, which leads to group norms, boredom, and peer pressure. Research also shows that younger people are not coming into the trade of skilled labor in the construction industry. This is leaving older workers with fewer young workers which causes the older workers to perform a strenuous task that their body can no longer handle. When they get hurt, it takes longer for them to recover which leads to the use of prescription meds or drugs to ease the pain. Even a few drinks after work is believed to help them relax enough to get a good night’s sleep.

When analyzing the social impact and implications of each of the alternative solutions I think about creating a sober workplace by educating, testing, prevention, assistance, treatment, and rehabilitation. The social impact and implications of these would be to provide a safe workplace and providing the needed resources to those who abuse drugs or alcohol. Reduction of abusers impacts their family and friends’ lives. Children especially since they are more likely to use if they are in a house of abusers. These abusers won’t be putting other workers and their society at risk when under the influence. It impacts how they spend their money and pay their bills. Marriage issues can get better if they deal with the issues instead of abusing drugs to cope. Fewer accidents keep insurance premiums down. If working efficiently and safely hopefully impacts the body less which reduces pain and the need to take drugs to help manage. Under the influence can cause injuries that make an abuser use even more. There should be a decrease in absenteeism which should help to be understaffed and making workers put long hours and abusing their bodies less because of trying to do the work of multiple people. An increase in the quality of work doesn’t have to be redone which costs money and more stress on workers.

When I selected the solution that provides the optimum social resolution I believe that there is no one fix-all to this issue. However, I think that drug testing is done at the workplace and having high expectations for workers in the industry would optimum social resolution. I suggest that they give a drug test more often than hiring in and random. Also, having a test that is done right onsite for quick results and less ability to alter the results. The first time they are given the chance to seek help by education classes which should be required during new hire orientation by any company and the offer to rehab. They would be able to return to work but if they are caught again then they lose their job and are band until they complete required classes and pass a regular drug test. Also, if these are union jobs they should be reported to the hall and the halls should also be involved in their rehab and expectations. I would almost go as far as making it a fine based on wither state or federal law due to the dangers it has on others and the community around the person using. If there is an accident and someone is hurt or killed, the person could be charged for his or her negligence. Resistance could be workers saying that it violates their rights but it also violates the rights to those they are putting in harm’s way. Cost is another resistance that companies might have but the cost overweights the loss of someone’s life or injury. Hall might say that will not deny workers the right to work due to their drug issues and since the union is to protect jobs. However, they should not allow harmful behavior if someone is not safe to be around. Lives are more important than providing a job to the abuser that has the chance to be better.

As I start to consider the implementation steps for the proposed solution. I think of:

Who: Employer, State/Federal laws, Union halls, and workers will be responsible for the implementation of the proposed solution.

What: The Employer is responsible for testing, education, and holding workers accountable. State and Federal laws set penalties for those who hurt or kill someone while under the influence on a job site and continued offenses of failed drug tests. Union halls are responsible for getting the help and meeting requirements to be able to work again after failed drug test or injuries. Workers will be required to complete the required courses/rehabs and drug test to have the right work.

When: Starts when the employee starts a job with a new contractor and enter the trade. Will be required wherever they work. Implementation would happen in the 3rd quarter of 2020.

Where: It happens on job sites, union halls, or any new hire orientation. Drug tests would be completed onsite and selected randomly and daily.

How: Project management, Human Resource, and safety managers will be the one’s drug testing.

I have worked in the construction industry since 2015 and have seen the drug problem first hand. I started in the industry because of a fertilizer plant being built five miles from my hometown. I was able to see firsthand the impact it had on my community as these workers brought their drugs and problems with them. I then worked with these people and saw the impairment they showed on the job site. I also saw the aftermath of poor work has to be done that cost the owner millions of dollars. There were two subcontractors thrown off-site due to this. Safety dealt with many injuries due to workers being under the influence. The random drug test was required and it was found that those who were clean could sell their pee so those using drugs could pass. Porta potties were being pumped and drugs and supplies could be spotted through the clear tubes as the aftermath of those using on the job site. Marriages were ruined and money problems became the norm. I dated someone who works on the road and hear about the marriage, money, and drug problems of these workers daily. It’s truly heartbreaking that this industry leads to such a horrible social problem.

As I continue my work in construction, my current employer has zero-tolerance for drug abuse and part of my solution came from what they have put into place. They offer substance abuse rehab and counseling if the worker fails their drug test while working for us. If they refuse to take a drug test, they are not hired or are let go. Anyone on our job sites has the right to stop work if believed it is unsafe. Training is done annually to that, workers are aware of what to look for and how to respond to drug use in any of our workers and any subs that we have working under us. There are policies in place that require a person to no operate any company-owned vehicles, rentals, or equipment until after 8 hours after their last drink. Driving records are reviewed and if any DUI within a certain time puts a person on an unapproved list for the ability operation company vehicles or equipment. Anytime someone has an accident or is injured we require a drug test. The results could affect their ability to claim disability or get unemployment.

Based on the information and the solutions I have provided it is undeniable that this issue can have an impact on the employer, employee and the society around them and if not held accountable for their auctions as an employer and employee the issue will not lessen. Without auction, the construction industry will continue to be one of the highest jobs with substance abuse.


  1. Lauer J. C., Jones G. R., Lauer R. H., (2014). Social Problems and the Quality of Life (13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Bradley (2020) Retrieved from https://www.bradley.com/insights/publications/2019/01/cannabis-and-the-contractor-effective-drug-testing-policy-and-compliance
  3. Confirm Biosciences (2019) Retrieved from https://www.confirmbiosciences.com/industries/construction-drug-testing/
  4. Science Daily (2020) Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/10/191030082825.htm
  5. Opioid-related Overdose Deaths in Massachusetts By Industry and Occupation, 2011-2015 Retrieved from https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2018/08/15/opioid-industry-occupation.pdf
  6. Construction industry confronts drug addictions among ranks (2019) Retrieved from https://apnews.com/4a5e8617a8d84d758f2ef06289f1774f


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