People who work in manual labor jobs are most likely to die from drug overdoses, an official analysis revealed. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at more than 60,000 drug-linked fatalities nationwide in 2020 and found construction and extraction workers — such as builders, roofers and oil workers — died from illicit and prescription drug overdoses at a rate of 163 per 100,000 people.
Researchers said one reason for this was because the workers are more likely to suffer injuries or chronic pain and may then become addicted to opioids after taking them to manage the condition.
Restaurant and food service workers, such as waiters, bar staff and chefs were the second most likely to die from illicit drugs — like heroin and cocaine — which analysts explained could be due to a lack of job security. In this group, 118 per 100,000 people died due to illicit drugs.
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at more than 60,000 drug-linked fatalities nationwide in 2020 for the analysis
Occupations with the highest death rate from illicit drug use
Farmer or fisher
Deaths (per 100k)
Occupations with the lowest death rate from illicit drug use
Deaths (per 100k)
People working in personal care services, such as hairdressers, fitness instructors and manicurists, died at the third highest rate of 74 per 100,000 people.
Conversely, teachers were least likely to die from illicit substance use, alongside computer experts and those employed in business and financial operations.
In the paper, published Tuesday in National Vital Statistics Reports, researchers looked through data from the National Vital Statistics System by fatalities from illicit drug use and occupation.
Approximately 90,000 people died from overdoses in the US in 2020, with fatalities surging to a record high of 109,000 in 2022 and about 13 percent of Americans admit to using illicit drugs at least once a month.
Several experts warn fatalities could hit another record in 2023, despite $1.6billion being spent on prevention efforts. In the year to March 2023, an estimated 110,000 people died from overdoses.
The uptick is in part being driven by fentanyl, a toxic man-made opioid being mixed into drugs that is fatal in even very small amounts.
The Covid pandemic has also been named as a cause due to people being isolated, experiencing the threat of death or a loved one or losing their job.
Deaths included in the study were among people between 16 and 64 years old and were from 46 states and New York City.
Researchers analyzed death certificates to determine the cause of death and identify a person’s occupation.
A death rate per 100,000 was then calculated per occupation by dividing overdose deaths and the number of people employed in the area based on official estimates.
The results were adjusted by age to allow for A comparison between each group.
Overall, the researchers found an average of 42 illicit drug deaths per 100,000 people.
But among construction workers — who led the figures — the rate was nearly four times this level at 162 deaths per 100,000.
The CDC warned construction workers were more likely to suffer serious physical injuries while at work.
Painkillers are prescribed to help workers, they said, but many return to work too early — or sometimes work through injuries — because of financial pressures.
This leads them to start relying on painkillers or overdose to numb the feeling which, in turn, raises the risk of them developing an addiction and starting to take illicit drugs.
For waiters, bar staff and chefs, the rate was nearly three times as high and for personal service workers it was nearly twice as high.
Researchers warned this group may also suffer injuries because they spend a lot of time on their feet, leading them to potentially fall into the same cycle. These employees are also at risk of psychological stress due to job insecurity or high pressure atwork, which could lead to drug use.
Among the top five were also transportation workers, such as truck, bus and taxi drivers, as well as building and grounds maintenance workers, which includes janitors, cleaners and groundskeepers.
The CDC said its report ‘demonstrates the disproportionate burden of the ongoing drug overdose crisis on certain sectors of the US workforce’.
Data on the drugs behind the overdose deaths was not revealed, but in previous reports, fentanyl has repeatedly emerged as the leading cause.