Trades people falling victim to addiction

Mar 7, 2023

A recent analysis published by CBC News and authored by Judy Aldous, Carla Turner, and Taylor Simmons examined the reasons behind the rise in overdose-related deaths among men working in trades. Isolation, lifestyle, and physical aspects of the job have been identified as some of the main contributing factors leading to drug use among men employed in the trades sector.

According to statistics provided by the Alberta provincial government, three out of four individuals who die from drug-related overdose are men. Furthermore, in 2017, it was demonstrated that 53% of individuals who had died due to opioid overdose had employment in trades, transport, or equipment operation.

Furthermore, a campaign carried out by Health Canada examined provincial reports from Alberta, B.C., and Ontario and determined that approximately 30 to 50% of individuals employed at the time of their death were employed in trades.

The analysis also revealed that one of the main obstacles keeping workers from seeking help is fear of job loss. “Nobody wants to keep an active addiction or a person who’s an active [addict] employed. It takes time and money,” he said. “You’re a dime a dozen. There’s more people that are going to fill your boots,” said Richard Kelloway, an abatement technician who lives and works in Fort McMurray, in his interview with CBC News. “People are definitely rundown when they’re doing 21-day shifts. It’s a big toll on the mind and the body. Being away from family is definitely hard on people.… My leisure time was filled with drinking and partying with friends.”

According to Terry Parker of Building Trades of Alberta, a group representing 18 trade unions and more than 60,000 workers in the province, reducing stigma and the fear of reprisal are key to encouraging men working in trades to seek the support they need.

Moreover, the group has created a program called “Building Resiliency” with the help of a $650,000 grant from the provincial government, offering optional online training modules for workers to raise awareness of mental health and addiction and offering resources for workers to become “peer supports” for their colleagues.

Currently, the group is also working on creating a website that workers can access 24/7 to anonymously receive guidance and advice on substance use.