17% of Unemployed Workers Have Substance Use Disorder: Survey

A government survey finds 17 percent of unemployed workers have a substance use disorder, compared with 9 percent of full-time workers, CNNMoney reports.

The findings, from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, are self-reported, so the rate of substance use disorders among the unemployed may be even higher, the article notes. The survey included addictions to alcohol, illegal drugs and misused prescription drugs.

An study released earlier this year concluded it is more likely unemployment leads people to substance abuse, rather than drug and alcohol use leading to unemployment. Researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis noted, “During episodes of large increases in unemployment, the number of drug users can increase dramatically.”

A University of Miami researcher who published a study in Industrial Relations earlier this year on alcohol and unemployment says as people become unemployed, they have less income and are less able to afford drugs and alcohol. At the same time, they have more time to drink and use drugs. “Among those who are unemployed, the leisure effect is dominating the income effect,” researcher Michael French told CNN Money. “We find that when the unemployment rate increases, all else equal, drinking increases.”

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    December 2, 2013 at 10:59 PM

    Do these numbers include persons whose SUD is in remission, or just those actively using?

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    Cliff Carr

    December 2, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    I have two problems with this study. There are two groups of unemployed: the ones still looking and the permanently unemployed. They shouldn’t be lumped together in this type of analysis.

    The suggestion that the unemployed rate could be higher should be accompanied with a comment on the employed probably reporting less.

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