Looking to Stay Clean? Stay Away From These Industries

So you’ve finally done what for so long seemed the impossible. You’re in recovery. Now what?

Central to avoiding relapse is carefully choosing who you surround yourself with. And while friends are a good starting point, the self-examination shouldn’t stop there. For many of us, co-workers represent some of the people we see the most. Not only that, but it’s a group with whom it can often pay—literally—to be friendly with, leading to pressure to maybe hit the bar after work. That said, not all industries are created equal when it comes to substance use and abuse. Serious about staying clean? Consider the following.


If the bottle is your Achilles heel, you’re in good company among miners. According to a 2015 report put out by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the mining industry tops the charts when it comes to heavy alcohol use. All told, 17.5 percent reported having consumed five or more drinks on five or more occasions within a 30-day period. This is compared to the healthcare and social assistance industry, which found itself at the bottom of the list at 4.4 percent.1

Right behind mining was the construction industry. In all, 16.5 percent of those in this group reported heavy alcohol use. Unlike mining, however, this remained true even when the researchers controlled for gender and age differences across industries. According to the study’s authors: “This indicates that there is something unique about…the construction industry that would remain even if the construction industry had the same gender and age distribution of any other industry.”2

In third place for heavy alcohol use was the food service and accommodations services industry, which trailed the nearly neck-and-neck mining and construction industries at 11.8 percent.3

Illicit Drugs

When it comes to narcotics, the news only gets worse for people working in food service and accommodations. Nearly a fifth of all of this industry’s employees reported using illicit drugs at some point in the past month, with the arts, entertainment and recreation industry coming in second at just under 14 percent.4Nearly 20% of people working in food service reported using illicit drugs in the last month

“This is an industry where you work hard and then you party harder when you’re done,” D.C. restaurant-owner Scott Magnuson explained in an article published by the Society for Human Resource Management. “Once you’re sucked into it, and when everybody you know is doing the same thing, you tend to lose touch with what is normal.”5

Sacramento-based John Puckett agrees. “It’s part of the culture,” the man who has worked in the restaurant business since he was 12 told the Sacramento Bee. “It’s a combination of the hours (in restaurant work) and the accessibility. Amphetamines are almost a tool that some need, and then it gets out of control. There’s also the camaraderie. You and your crew might unwind by having a celebratory shot or cracking a beer. Beer, wine and liquor are around all the time.”6

All this is compared to the public administration industry, which came in at the bottom of the illicit-drug list at 4.3 percent, well below the average of 9.5 percent.7

No Matter What

Of course, switching jobs is one thing, changing industries entirely another. For many, the option may not seem to exist. If this is the case for you, it’s important to keep in mind that chances are you work with someone who is also trying to avoid the bottle, or whatever vice it may be. Find your allies and don’t forget that regardless of who you’re surrounded by, you have the power to make your own choices and be a positive example for others.

1. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.html
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/restaurant-substance-abuse-.aspx
6. http://www.sacbee.com/food-drink/chris-macias/article20449257.html
7. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_1959/ShortReport-1959.html

Written by Tamarra Kemsley

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