Unpacking the Dangers of Substance Abuse to Truck Drivers

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Studies show that truck drivers have frequently tested positive for alcohol or have admitted to being under the influence of amphetamines while operating their vehicles.

A resource provided by American Addiction Centers examines the prevalence of substance addiction among truck drivers. According to the resources, truck drivers in the United States were found to have had “the highest frequency of positive tests for alcohol in the entire world,” with one study finding that 12.5% of drivers tested positive for alcohol, while 30% of drivers admitted using amphetamines.

As the resource lays out, truck drivers face a number of stressors. Not only do they have to work for 70 hours a week, they face inconsistent and uncertain wages and spend most of their time in a cramped environment and frequently unpleasant weather conditions. Then there’s the isolation of the job, which has led some trucking companies to encourage their drivers to “listen to audiobooks” or “stay in cellphone contact with friends, family, and other truckers, just to have a connection to another human being.” Unfortunately, some truckers “resort to other methods.” 

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American Addiction Centers shares resources for truck drivers who are dealing with common stressors that could influence their substance abuse, such as long work weeks and inconsistent wages.

The resource argues that the use of stimulant drugs like amphetamines in cocaine is not only life-threatening for drivers on the road, it also creates a self-fulfilling prophecy, “giving trucking companies the impression that their employees are capable of making longer trips than they realistically can.” Companies assign longer hours to drivers who then continue or increase their substance use, raising the chances of a deadly overdose. This problem is especially prevalent among younger drivers, who “are more inexperienced than veteran truckers, and they are driven to make more money, so they are more likely to take risks that endanger themselves,” according to American Addiction Centers.

Then there’s the threat to other road users. As the resource notes, the use of substances might lead drivers to engage in risky and reckless driving behaviors, “such as driving faster, making inadvisable lane mergers, and feeling invincible in the face of inclement weather conditions,” as well as the risk of falling asleep when the drugs wear off. The dangers to other drivers and pedestrians is obvious. In 2013, according to the resource, 3,964 people lost their lives in truck crashes, with 80% of the deaths “occurring in drivers or passengers of the smaller vehicle.”

More information on the risks of substance abuse among truck drivers, and the healthcare and rehab options available to truckers, is available via American Addiction Centers.

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