Substance Use and the Workplace: Supporting Employers and Employees in the Trades [toolkit]

Many of us regularly use substances that may alter our ability to think clearly and act as we normally would. We use them for many reasons and in different ways. We may use prescribed medications to manage pain or alcohol for socializing with friends and family. However, sometimes we use substances in ways that can cause significant harms at home, at work and in our communities.

Opioid overdoses and deaths are a public health crisis affecting many working Canadians. Use of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and other substances also cause harms that affect employees, their families and workplaces.

Workers in construction, trades and transport are greatly impacted by deaths and harms caused by opioids. It is common for people in these types of jobs to experience work-related injuries, stress and pain. They may not have or know where to find the resources they need to take care of these issues. This could lead to using pain medications and other substances more often to cope. Some trades and construction workplaces foster a “work hard, play hard” culture. This culture can reinforce heavy alcohol and other substance use.

Stigma (negative attitudes or beliefs) around getting help for substance use is also a challenge. Men make up a large part of the construction and trades workforce and may not try to change their substance use patterns or seek help when needed because they believe that it shows weakness.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), in collaboration with Health Canada’s Opioid Response Team, prepared this toolkit of resources. Employers can use the resources in this toolkit to improve health and safety in the workplace around issues related to substance use. The overall goal of this resource toolkit is to help create workplaces where employers are able to support workers on issues related to substance use, health and safety.

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