The study that examines the prevalence of cannabis consumption among workers in different industries, published last year in the International Review of Psychiatry, demonstrates that cannabis use is represented in a wide range of employment backgrounds—and some of the industries where using cannabis is most common might come as a surprise.
Researchers looked at data on 293,492 adults collected between 2005 and 2015 for the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The participants answered questions about their age, sex, occupation, how many hours they worked in the past week, and which drugs they took.
The point of the study wasn’t simply to show what kind of workers are using marijuana, but also for what purposes. If a survey respondent reported using cannabis in the past year, their use was then categorized as either medical, recreational or mixed (i.e. some of their cannabis consumption was recommended by a doctor, but not all of it).
Service sector workers are the most likely to use marijuana when compared with those in other industries, research has revealed. Those in the food and beverage industry, like chefs, waiters, and bartenders fall into this category, alongside hospitality workers such as housekeepers and concierges, janitors and those who work in hair and beauty.
A study showed construction trade and extraction employees in the U.S. were the second most likely to use the drug, followed by those working in entertainment, sports, media and communications.
Study co-author Danielle Ompad, associate professor of epidemiology at NYU College of Global Public Health commented in a statement:
“It makes sense that we see higher rates of construction workers using pain-relieving substances such as opioids and marijuana, given the labor-intensive nature of their work and high rates of injuries.”
Ompad said: “In the high-risk settings of construction work, where safely handling hazardous equipment is critical for reducing harms for workers, drug testing and other workplace substance use policies may play a role in protecting workers.
“One key difference between the user groups is the higher percentage of medical cannabis users in the construction and mining industries,” they wrote. “This is likely due to the higher injury rates in these industries: construction and mining work require physical stamina, often involve irregular schedules, and expose workers to weather, dangerous tools, and equipment.”
“However, not all marijuana and opioid use is problematic and drug testing cannot distinguish recreational use from medical use. Thus, strict workplace drug policies also have the potential to harm companies and reduce employment opportunities for workers,” she explained.
“Coupled with reports of increasing overdose mortality among this occupational group, these findings suggest that prevention and harm reduction programming is needed to prevent drug-related morbidity and mortality.”
“Knowing that employees may be at risk for drug use and the negative consequences of drug use (e.g., overdose and injuries) is important for employees and their employers to engage in prevention and harm reduction,” she continued.
“Workplace policies that are supportive of workers (e.g., employee assistance programs, referrals for drug treatment, education) would be of benefit.”
She suggested employers should have the opioid blocker Narcan on worksites in case workers overdose.
The study notes that there’s conflicting research about marijuana use in these industries, with some arguing that frequent use can result in increased workplace injuries and others contending that the therapeutic use of cannabis “addresses pain and other health problems… that often result from work-related injuries.”
That latter point is also consistent with a study showing “evidence that legalizing medical marijuana improved workplace safety.”
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