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Occupations With High Rates of Alcoholism

by Jeffrey Juergens ❘  

Developing an Alcohol Use Disorder

As the most commonly used addictive substance, it’s no surprise that alcohol addiction is prevalent in our society. In the US, more than 17 million adults have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). There are many factors that can contribute to developing an AUD, including your occupation.

According to a recent study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an annual average of 8.7 percent of full-time workers aged 18 to 64 used alcohol heavily in the past month. Whether it’s on the job, during lunch break or before/after hours, alcohol abuse can cause major issues in the workplace, including:

  • fatal accidents and premature death
  • injuries and increased accident rates
  • absenteeism and extra sick leave
  • loss of production and efficiency
  • tiredness and sleeping on the job
  • theft
  • poor decision making
  • low co-worker morale
  • trouble with co-workers and/or supervisors
  • trouble performing tasks and duties
  • high turnover

Jobs that are high stress, physically demanding, have a high rate of depression and provide easy access to alcohol tend to lead to higher rates of alcohol abuse.

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5 Occupations That Could Put You at Risk


According to SAMHSA’s study, 17.5 percent of miners reported heavy alcohol use during the past month; this was the highest percentage of alcohol abuse among all industries studied. Most miners work long, irregular hours and the work is physically demanding, isolated and dangerous. Mental health issues, especially depression, is on the rise in this field, leading some miners to self-medicate with alcohol. These factors combined are likely to blame for the high rate of alcohol abuse among workers in this industry.

Construction Workers

Construction had the second highest rate of heavy alcohol use in SAMHSA’s study with 16.5 percent. Construction work can be stressful, especially when trying to meet a deadline. Like the mining industry, the work is physically demanding and the risk of injury is high. The instability of the industry may also play a role in leading workers to drink, as many go through periods of unemployment and may not always have access to health/mental health care.

Food Service Workers

As you might expect, food service workers, like servers, bartenders, chefs and restaurant managers, have some of the highest rates of alcohol abuse. The nature of the work provides easy access to large amounts of alcohol and sneaking drinks from behind the bar is pretty common in this field. Some restaurants/bars even offer employees a free drink when their shift is over.


High stress, long hours and high expectations make lawyers prime candidates for alcohol abuse. In fact, the American Bar Association estimates that one in five lawyers has an alcohol problem. The depression rate, as well as the suicide rate, is very high in this industry. Lawyers are expected to exhibit a professional demeanor at all times, so they’re usually good at hiding emotions or problems they may be facing. They often fall into the category of high-functioning alcoholics because they can lead relatively successful lives while struggling with alcoholism behind the scenes.


Like lawyers, doctors have high stress jobs that involve long hours and high expectations. As added pressure, they’re directly responsible for the lives and health of all their patients. Studies have found that one in ten doctors have problems with drugs or alcohol. Furthermore, a 2012 study by University of Washington researchers found that one in six surgeons meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.

Employee Assistance Programs Help With Addiction

Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) are a great way to help employees who are struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. These programs offer confidential counseling and referrals to employees with personal or work related issues that may negatively affect their work performance, health and well-being. While some employers may be concerned about the cost of EAP, many would agree these programs pay for themselves in the long run.

Many individuals and families face a host of difficulties closely associated with problem drinking, and these problems quite often spill into the workplace. By encouraging and supporting treatment, employers can dramatically assist in reducing the negative impact of alcoholism in the workplace, while reducing their costs.

If you work in one of these industries, don’t fret! It doesn’t mean you’re destined to become an alcoholic; you may just need to be more aware of your drinking habits. If you’re ever concerned that your drinking is becoming a problem, please contact a treatment provider to discuss rehab-related options.

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