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Dark side of Aussie tradies' $200,000 pay day: 'It's everywhere'

Cocaine use is on the rise and tradies have been warned about how they use their money.

Tradesmen on a construction site next to a hand holding a bag of white substance
Tradies are among the biggest cocaine users in Australia and it's become an open conversation on many construction sites. (Source: Getty)

Tradies are pulling in huge amounts of money at the moment, but there's an emerging dark side to having so much cash to splash. Drug use has skyrocketed among tradespeople and some are even turning up to work still high.

Cocaine was known to be the drug of choice for white-collar workers like stockbrokers, but with tradies earning more than $200,000 a year for entry-level positions, they're now easily able to afford the $300-a-bag substance. One apprentice tradie, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Yahoo Finance it's rife at the moment.

"It's more common to find yourself speaking to someone who does coke on weekends than someone who doesn’t, particularly in the younger demographic," he said.

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"I think tradies have a lot more extra cash lying around for recreational activities. Someone I know on a union site has seen people arrive and been still wired."

He added that tradies, particularly young ones who are experiencing their first big influx of cash, are "always out doing something" like going to "lavish restaurants", or spending their pay on "new toys, holidays and drugs".

Data from Flinders University and National Drug Strategy Household Surveys revealed construction workers had the second-highest use of cocaine of any industry.

Do you have a story? Email stew.perrie@yahooinc.com

A little more than one in 10 (10.5 per cent) tradies admitted to taking the substance and were just behind people who worked in accommodation and food services (12.6 per cent).

Carpenters, plumbers, and electricians, in particular, have "doubled" their cocaine use in recent years.

"Cocaine can impact a worker’s physical and mental well-being, increase the risk of workplace accidents and injuries, and thus compromise a worker’s fitness for work," the Flinders University study explained, highlighting how much of a danger the drug can be on construction sites.

Another tradie told News Corp's Cocaine Inc. podcast that coke use has become an open conversation at work.

"It’s everywhere. It’s the drug of the rich and they’re making enough to afford [it]," they said.

The Flinders University data found it's not just tradies. It revealed the workers who were most at-risk of cocaine use were:

  • Those who drank alcohol at risky levels

  • People aged 18–34 years

  • New South Wales residents

  • Workers in metropolitan locations

  • Tobacco smokers

Tradies working in fly-in fly-out (FIFO) sectors have been particularly warned against buying shiny new toys as they can earn some of the largest incomes due to the remoteness of their job.

“They’ve got a surplus of income, they do have a lot of money to burn so it is very easy to get caught up in the extravagant things - like [cars], jet skis and boats,” financial adviser Helen Baker told Yahoo Finance.

Brodie White, who was working in the mines in Western Australia, found this out the hard way and urged others to think twice before splashing their cash.

“Do not f**king buy a ute on finance for goodness sake,” he said in a TikTok video.

“I’ve spent roughly $70,000 in the last three years on ute payments and accessories for my ute.”

Baker said the biggest risk of buying a car on finance was that it was a depreciating asset - meaning it declines in value over time.

“You’re paying for [the car], then you’re paying interest payments on top of it. So, you’re paying way more than what it was originally worth but it is also a depreciating asset,” Baker said.

“So, if and when you have to sell it, it is going to be worth way less than what you originally paid for it and what you paid back in interest repayments.”

White said that $70,000 would have been better placed on a deposit for an investment property and encouraged tradies with newfound money to use their money wisely.

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