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Professions With The Highest Rates Of Addiction

John Schaffer, LPCC

Medically reviewed by

John Schaffer, LPCC

March 25, 2019

Work can often cause great levels of stress which can, unfortunately, lead many people to turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. But what jobs or professions suffer from the highest rates of addiction? The answers may surprise you: it isn’t focused entirely on high-stress and low-income jobs.

Addiction Is Not Focused Solely On The Lower Class

It’s easy to think of addiction as a problem that impacts those in lower income brackets: this is certainly the story that Hollywood likes to tell. And while it’s true that many of the professions in this heading do suffer from high rates of addiction, people with higher income jobs are at just as high of a chance of addiction, if not more.

Remember: drug addiction can strike anyone who is abusing substances. And people with higher income jobs have more disposable income than somebody who is struggling paycheck-to-paycheck. Perhaps that explains the high rates of addiction that The American Journal Of Preventive Medicine found in people with high income.

Their study found that these people suffered from an alcohol addiction rate of 69 percent and a marijuana usage rate of 11 percent. These rates were significantly higher than people in lower income brackets–as much as double. There are a wide variety of reasons for this disparity, partially based on disposable income and other factors, such as stress due to their important position.

Typical Drug Use Statistics

The National Survey On Drug Use And Health polled the American workplace to find which fields were the most highly impacted by addiction.

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Although this isn’t a complete list, it will give you an idea of how drugs impact the workplace:

  • Food service – 17.4 percent
  • Construction workers – 15.1 percent
  • Sales – 9.6 percent
  • Maintenance and repair – 9.5 percent
  • Office and administration – 7.5 percent

The majority of these jobs are high-energy and stressful positions that are difficult for many people to handle. For example, food service employees often have to deal with impatient customers that demand high-quality food at inexpensive prices and quick delivery times. And office administrators are responsible for vital business decisions that cause great stress.

The interesting thing is how spread out these jobs are on the career spectrum. While you have lower-income careers (such as construction workers) often topping the list, you also have higher-income professions, such as sales, right in the thick of things. That illuminates how widespread and damaging drug addiction is in America.

Doctors And Other Health Professionals

The above statistics were primarily focused on illicit drugs. If you include prescription drugs in the equation, a shocking statistic emerges: a study at Medscape found that 69 percent of doctors abuse prescription medication. This amazingly high number can be explained by stress: few professions are as stressful as being a doctor.

Doctors are required to make quick decisions that could be life-or-death for their patients. They are also immersed in an environment that offers easy access to prescription drugs. As a result, they may abuse their own prescriptions or find ways to get a hold of drugs they don’t need.

However, doctors aren’t the only health care professionals that suffer from high rates of addiction. Nurses, pharmacists, and even home care workers suffer from between 10-15 percent addiction rates. The reasons are similar to that of doctor addiction: their job is stressful and access to prescription drugs is easy.


Like doctors, lawyers suffer from extremely high instances of addiction. However, their addiction problem is primarily fueled by alcohol: about 95 percent of all addicted lawyers abuse alcohol. Stress is a major factor here, as are the various meetings that a lawyer must attend. At many of these meetings, alcohol will be served. As a result, it’s easy for lawyers to slowly develop an addiction.

And lawyers also suffer from high degrees of stress. Beyond the difficulties of their own job (proving a person’s innocence or guilt), they are also working with people who are suffering from high levels of stress. As a result, turning to a downer like alcohol helps alleviate that stress and can quickly lead to addiction.

Food Prep And Construction

As previously mentioned, food preparation and construction jobs have high rates of addiction (17.2 and 15.1 percent respectively). The stressful nature of food prep has already been discussed, but what drives a construction work to addiction? Again, like most professions, the hospitality industry comes with a high level of stress.

Construction workers are often working on vitally important projects, such as bridges, highways, and skyscrapers. Making any mistake could cause the structure to fail, leading to death or severe damage. Unfortunately, this puts a high strain on construction workers and forces them to turn to alcohol or marijuana (two downers) to decrease their stress.

And just think of the cliche of blue collar workers gathering at the local bar at the end of the day. Often, these gatherings work as a way to both blow off stress and socialize with friends. While this kind of socialization is healthy on some level, it can lead to a dependent lifestyle much too quickly.

How We Can Help

If you or someone you know works in these professions and suffers from an addiction, you need to reach out to someone for help. Let us be your guide: at, our high-quality counselors have access to rehab center contact information, as well as vital tips for regaining a sober lifestyle. Don’t hesitate to get a hold of us as soon as possible.

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