Which Careers and Groups Are Most Affected by Addiction?

Addition affects people of all ages and walks of life. From veterans and firefighters to business leaders and celebrities, substance use disorders have caused a host of health problems among countless individuals.
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Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate. It affects children and teens, young adults and seniors, men and women. The disorder affects people of all races, demographics and socio-economic backgrounds.

But some people have an increased risk for developing a substance use disorder. Rates of addiction fluctuate among different professions, and some careers have more workers battling addiction than others.

For example, veterans experience high rates of mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, leading many to turn to drugs to numb their pain. And many celebrities frequent parties rife with drugs, increasing their risk for addiction.

Other groups, including homeless people and seniors, also use drugs and alcohol to numb their physical and mental pain. Substance abuse has caused millions of Americans to face severe health consequences that jeopardize their lives.

Jobs Associated with Addiction and Mental Illness

Anxiety and depression permeate the American workforce. Poor sleep habits, difficult work schedules and access to drugs have contributed to high rates of addiction among a number of professions, from construction to health care.


Athletes have struggled with anxiety, depression and injuries that have resulted in their use of substances such as painkillers and performance-enhancing drugs. A study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that 52 percent of 644 retired NFL players reported using opioids during their playing days, and 71 percent of these former players reported misusing these drugs.


A host of celebrities have developed an addiction. Many high-profile musicians and actors have abused various drugs from cocaine to heroin. Substance abuse has led to countless treatment stints, overdoses and deaths among celebrities.

Construction Workers

Construction is one of America’s largest industries. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, construction workers had the second-highest rate of past-month heavy alcohol use among adult full-time workers from 2008 to 2012.


Doctors are not immune to addiction. Research estimates that 10 to 15 percent of doctors misuse alcohol or drugs at some point in their career. Physicians who practice under the influence of drugs or alcohol jeopardize the safety of their patients.


Irregular work schedules, lack of sleep and dangerous exposures to fires cause stress among many firefighters. A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse & Alcoholism indicated that 56 percent of career and 45 percent of volunteer firefighters reported past-month binge drinking, an activity associated with addiction.


The demands of the profession have resulted in anxiety, depression and substance abuse among many lawyers. A 2016 study by the American Bar Association showed that one in three practicing lawyers is a problem drinker. Lawyers working in law firms had the highest rates of alcohol abuse.


Nurses often grapple with stress, fatigue and personal problems that contribute to drug or alcohol abuse. A number of nurses self-medicate with painkillers, such as hydrocodone, and alcohol to relieve headaches or reduce insomnia.


Law enforcement can be physically and mentally taxing. Many officers often deal with arduous work schedules, mental health problems and life-threatening situations. These conditions have contributed to addiction among police officers.


Addiction is prevalent among people who have chosen a career in the military. Countless veterans who have experienced the horrors of war have developed post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, causing many to misuse drugs and alcohol to cope.

Other Groups Affected By Addiction

Addiction isn’t always associated with work-related problems or stress. In recent years, older individuals and those in unfortunate circumstances, including homeless people and prisoners, have experienced high rates of substance abuse.

Homeless People

Substance abuse is common in the homeless community. A survey of more than 30,100 homeless people across the country found that 24 percent of participants had concurrent mental, physical and substance use problems. Alcohol, opioids, cocaine and methamphetamine misuse is often associated with homelessness.


About half of people in prison or jail experience substance abuse or dependence, according to a report by The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights. Treatment can save lives, but many prisons do not provide inmates experiencing addiction with proper evidence-based treatment.


Many older Americans rely on medications to maintain good health. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 80 percent of adult patients aged 57 to 85 use at least one prescription medication daily. But this has resulted in many baby boomers misusing their medications, leading to higher rates of addiction among seniors.

The Importance of Treatment and Employee Assistance Programs

Rehab can save lives. But most Americans experiencing a substance use disorder fail to seek the treatment needed to overcome their substance use problems. They may not believe they have a drug problem at all. Some fear losing their jobs or harbor shame for their substance use behaviors.

Substance abuse treatment has assisted celebrities, doctors, law enforcement officers and a host of other Americans in defeating addiction. Rehab facilities devise treatment plans to meet the individual’s needs and use the latest evidence-based techniques to help people recover from substance use and co-occurring disorders.

Many companies offer their workers employee assistance programs. These programs give people free and confidential resources designed to help them deal with personal or work-related problems, including issues with substance abuse.

Medical Disclaimer: DrugRehab.com aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

Matt Gonzales
Content Writer, DrugRehab.com
Matt Gonzales is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. He graduated with a degree in journalism from East Carolina University and began his professional writing career in 2011. Matt covers the latest drug trends and shares inspirational stories of people who have overcome addiction. Certified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in health literacy, Matt leverages his experience in addiction research to provide hope to those struggling with substance use disorders.

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