US study finds nearly 1 in 10 full-time workers have had a substance use disorder in the past year


A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that 9.5 percent of full-time workers (ages 18 to 64) experienced a substance use disorder in the past year.

The report shows that an average of 8.7 percent of full-time workers used alcohol heavily in the past month. Heavy drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion on five or more days in the 30 days.

The report also indicates that 8.6 percent of full-time workers used illicit drugs in the past month.

Substance use and dependency levels varied considerably among workers in the 19 major industry categories assessed in the report. For example, rates of past month heavy alcohol use ranged from 17.5 percent among mining industry workers to 4.4 percent among health care and social assistant workers.

Rates of past month drug use also ranged from 19.1 percent among workers in the accommodations and food services industry to 4.3 percent among workers in the public administration industry.

The study provides detailed tables outlining the rates for past month heavy alcohol use, past month drug use, and past year substance use disorders among the workforces of each of these major industry categories.

The report is the first of its kind since 2007. Comparison of the data from this report and the 2007 report indicates that overall the levels of substance use and substance use disorders have remained relatively constant.

There have been some significant changes, however, in certain industry categories. For example, rates of past month illicit drug use increased among accommodations and food services industry workers from 16.9 percent in the 2007 report to 19.1 percent in the new report. During the same period, the past year substance use disorders dropped from 17.3 percent to 14.3 percent among construction industry workers.

“Substance use issues pose an enormous risk to the health, safety and productivity of American workers,” said SAMHSA’s Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “Every segment of the community needs to help tackle this problem, including employers. By developing and actively promoting workplace programs such as Employee Assistance Programs for helping employees deal with substance use problems, employers can significantly improve the health, well-being and productivity of their employees.”

In order to engage individuals with risky or unhealthy substance use habits or behavior, SAMHSA promotes the use of screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) practices in a wide variety of clinical settings. Employee Assistance Programs, occupational health clinicians and clinics, and primary care programs can assist individuals who are at risk for high risk substance use by employing appropriate SBIRT strategies. Early identification of problems with subsequent intervention can promote health and save lives.

The report, Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder, by Industry, is based on data from the combined 2008 to 2012 SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports. This was gathered from nationwide surveys involving 215,900 adults aged 18 to 64, 111,500 of whom were employed full-time. The comparable report released in 2007 was based on the combined data of the 2003 to 2007 NSDUH reports which surveyed 213,900 adults aged 18 to 64, 123,100 of who were fully employed.

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