Debunking Contrary Beliefs | Substance Use and the Working Population
The trades industry has been grappling with a silent crisis – the stigma surrounding drug use and drug-related deaths among its workers.
According to the Coroner’s Report, 35% of drug toxicity-related deaths occurred among individuals who were employed at the time of their passing. Of those employed, over half were working in trades, transport, or equipment operation. This highlights the pressing necessity for industry-specific support systems.
Contrary to a common misconception, the unhoused community does not constitute the majority of drug toxicity deaths. In 2023, a significant 81% of these deaths occurred indoors, with 47% happening in private residences and 34% in other inside locations like social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, hotels, and other indoor settings. Only 17% occurred outdoors.
Numerous individuals grappling with addiction maintain families, manage employment, possess residential properties, and meet financial obligations. These individuals are frequently labeled as “functional addicts,” and their prevalence is significantly greater than commonly assumed.
The stigma surrounding drug use has been a major barrier for individuals seeking support for their addiction challenges. To break down these barriers, some construction sites have embraced the role of being safe spaces for open and honest conversations about drug-related issues. The positive feedback from tradespeople on this approach highlights the importance of lived experiences in understanding complex health problems.
The Coroner’s Report also revealed that in 2023, 70% of those who succumbed to drug-related deaths were aged between 30 and 59, and 77% were male.
To support our industry workers, it is vital to dispel the stigma, invest in supervisor training, and create work environments that offer accessible support and resources.