According to a new study by Detox.net, based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health 2018 collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly one in ten of all employees in the United States admitted to engaging in illicit drug use. While workers in the hospitality industry were found to have the highest rate of illegal drug use, IT industry professionals were also among the most likely to struggle with drug abuse.

The study found that more than one in ten IT workers had abused illicit drugs, with three in five, or 58%, saying they’ve consumed cannabis – well above the national average. This was second only to construction workers, where 60% of workers admitted to using marijuana. This is notable that the two highest groups include both white collar and blue collar workers.

Why are IT Pros susceptible to drug use?

Other demographics however could play a factor.

“While many or most IT pros are well educated, the jobs tend to attract younger workers so that the prevalence of drug use – particularly cannabis – likely has a generational tilt,” suggested tech industry analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.

“The fact that smoking pot simply doesn’t carry the onus it once did, especially in states that have legalized personal possession and use, would tend to underscore that assumption,” King told ClearanceJobs. “There may be a connection between cannabis use and states where it’s been legalized. Several of those states – notably California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon – all have larger than typical IT industries.”

PainKillers and Harder Drugs

While the legalization of recreational marijuana is a factor, much of the country is also dealing with the ongoing opioid crisis. The study found that across all industries 16% of employees have abused pain relievers with nearly one in five IT workers admitting to abusing pain relieving drugs for non-medical use.

Notably, construction workers had the highest rate at 23%, possibly owing to the physical and strenuous demands placed on workers. By contrast, those in public administration had the lowest rate at 12%.

Construction also topped those who have used heroin at 4%, while 2% of those in IT have said they have tried the illegal narcotic.

“Use of heavier drugs can be triggered by numerous factors, but among professional people, having disposable income or working in high stress jobs can be factors,” added Pund-IT’s King. “Both of those occur in IT but it’s hard to say whether or how much they contribute to the people the report studied.”

The study did note that 11% of all U.S. employees have been classified with some type of substance use disorder. One area where IT workers trailed most other professions was in heavy alcohol use – the study found that nearly one in ten U.S. workers were heavy drinkers, versus 9% of IT workers.

“The reasoning behind an individual’s substance use is unique and can vary from environmental or genetic components, but there are commonalities between working professionals and substance use,” Dr.  Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer at American Addiction Centers, told ClearanceJobs via an email. “Occupations that have the highest rate of substance use all experience high-stress environments, long or inconsistent hours, and underlying psychological or physical pain.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com.