The Problem of Addiction in Canada’s Oil Industry

oil sands addictionThere is no question of whether or not Canada’s oil and gas industry creates jobs. In 2012, it employed 550,000 direct and indirect employees, according to a study done by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

But the darker underside of this oil culture is the working conditions it creates. The oil “pits,” or work camps, are overwhelmingly male dominated, built in remote places that are prone to extreme conditions, require workers to be on site for weeks at a time away from their usual support systems and provide little to no entertainment or recreation. Oil jobs also happen to pay an incredible amount of money, making these the ideal conditions for substance abuse and addiction problems.

A large legal controversy involving drug-testing at major oil companies alerted the public to this problem in 2011. Companies like Suncor, Canada’s largest oil producer based in Northern Alberta outside Ft Mac, are fighting for the power to randomly drug-test their employees as often as they see fit, but civil rights advocates and unions call the testing an invasion of the worker’s privacy. Suncor has defended its position, citing three deaths and a multitude of security incidents that involved drugs or alcohol at its facility since 2000.

These legal battles in Ft Mac news are creating public awareness of matters long known by employees of the oil industry. Oil workers recovering from addiction describe the battle for sobriety in the oil pits as nearly impossible. The pressure of long shifts over consecutive weeks builds until scheduled time off, when workers go into town with pockets full of money to burn. There, they have access to a range of addictive substances – every kind of liquor and drug on the market.

The oil companies do currently have the right to drug test in some instances, but this creates a trend of workers turning from marijuana, which can take weeks to flush from the body, to harder, more addictive substances such as liquor, cocaine and methamphetamines, which only take days to flush from the body. It is not long before these substances are abused by workers, on and off the job. It is not uncommon for drugs or alcohol to be used on site, even by workers who are operating large machinery.

The oil sands of Alberta near Ft Mac are notorious for this addiction culture, as it is the largest oil and natural gas producing province in Canada. However, the oil industry is expanding into other provinces as well, and if there were ever a time for Canada to develop a plan to combat future addiction problems before they are nationwide, it is now.

If you or someone you know works in the oil industry and is battling addiction, it could be that professional addiction rehabilitation is necessary. Addiction treatment programs that cater to the needs of those working in the oil industry are available to help you defeat your substance abuse problem.