Addiction's Role

You cannot speak about mental health in the construction industry without also speaking about drug and alcohol abuse.



Construction ranks in the top three industries for addiction, and there are a substantial number of suicides and suicide attempts linked to substance use, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Opiates, such as heroin and prescription painkillers, are present in 20% of suicides in the U.S. and 22% of suicides involve alcohol intoxication, reports the SAMHSA.

Construction’s high rate of workplace injuries increases the likelihood of an opioid prescription or self-medicating, and according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an individual’s environment, such as stress levels and quality of life, plays a significant role in increasing the likelihood of addiction.

A 2019 report analyzed construction trade and extraction workers’ rate of nonprescription opioid use and found that missing three to five days of work because of illness or injury was associated with doubling the odds of using a nonprescription opioid.

“You’re more likely to die by suicide or a drug overdose than you are workplace-related injury or fatality,” says Mandy McIntyre, former roofing marketer and now mental health business coach.

Sometimes it’s the opioids that will numb us so we can keep going through the aches and pains. A lot of guys hit bottom and get clean, but others keep using until they die.

The turning point for McIntyre’s career was named Ryan. A foreman at her company that McIntyre describes as “a natural born leader—who just happened to have a substance abuse problem,” would be found on the street, dead of a drug overdose in September 2021.

“There’s so much awareness that’s needed around this topic,” says McIntyre. “And there’s such a stigma, with phrases like ‘junkie’ or ‘addict.’ He was a person, he was a father, he was a brother.”

In October 2019, Pro Remodeler published a series about the industry’s challenge with addiction and dependency. As part of that piece, we featured Mike McCauley, a tiler and recovering addict who first became exposed to meth while on the jobsite. In recovery, he became the top producer at work and imagined buying the business one day.

McCauley openly shared his journey from meth to heroin, to nearly losing custody of his infant daughter, to getting and staying clean. In 2022, after relapsing, McCauley passed away from a drug overdose.

“As people in the trades, we push our bodies to the max every day just to make another buck,” said McCauley in 2021. “Sometimes it’s the opioids that will numb us so we can keep going through the aches and pains. A lot of guys hit bottom and get clean, but others keep using until they die.”


Caroline Broderick, Managing Editor

Caroline Broderick is the Managing Editor for Pro Remodeler. Most recently, she served as the associate editor for PR's sister publications, Pro Builder, Custom Builder, and PRODUCTS where she covered design, building products, trends, and more in the residential construction industry. She can be reached at cbroderick@sgcmail.com