Workplaces with High Opioid Misuse Rates can Make an Impact

Certain workplaces statistically include a higher risk of addiction than others, particularly regarding opioids. One occupation particularly stands out, however, carrying an injury rate 77% higher than the national average: construction. With increased injuries and demanding careers, these workers are more likely to be prescribed opioid painkillers for acute pain, raising the possibility of misuse and addiction.

However, it’s not just construction workers at risk of opioid addiction; blue-collar workers generally have nearly twice the rate of substance use disorder than other professions at just 8.6%. The physically and mentally strenuous work of these industries also leads many employees to seek out substances to self-medicate after long work days, stressful hours, weather conditions, and stress, among other reasons.

Safety Hazards on the Job

The dangers posed by workers intoxicated on the job while performing intricate tasks involving high voltage and heavy machinery are immense. They’re not just a risk to themselves but to co-workers and their employers, as well. Aside from devastating workplace accidents, there have many unfortunate cases of workers overdosing while on the job while trying to maintain their employment as they stave off withdrawals. Other statistics related to the unchecked opioid use among construction workers include:

  • The construction industry has the third-highest rate of workplace overdose fatalities from substances in the US.
  • Among all occupations, construction workers have the highest death rate from overdose, including from heroin, in a study from 2018.
  • Mining and construction workers are more likely to receive opioid prescriptions than any other industry, with employees of smaller companies receiving more scripts more frequently than those of larger ones. About 90% of construction businesses have fewer than 20 employees.
  • In 2018, it was reported that about 39% of contractors are highly concerned over worker substance misuse.
  • Almost three out of four construction workers were prescribed a narcotic painkiller in 2016.
  • Construction workers represent about 25% of fatal opioid overdoses among all workers.

How Companies Can Help Workers

With alarming rates of opioid use among blue-collar workers, some states have taken initiatives to train companies to deal with suspected overdose with kits containing reversal drugs such as Narcan®. Now that overdose death rates are higher than ever in history, it’s essential that these kits aren’t merely just dropped off at job sites but that workers are adequately trained as well. Learning to spot the signs of an overdose, administering the medication, and what to do while waiting for EMTs to arrive are only at the surface of necessary instruction.

Construction companies are also urged to assist workers who struggle with acute or chronic pain, offering alternative pain management resources to be covered by insurance instead of relying on highly addictive opioid medications. More time off to heal from workplace injuries is also a proposed solution to help decrease reliance on narcotics and improve workplace safety and awareness. Opening communication between employees and employers about potential addiction and requiring time off for treatment are also just the start of turning a new page to help improve the lives of construction workers.

Middlesex Recovery is dedicated to providing communities with effective and confidential addiction treatment in a professional setting. Specialized medical and nursing staff attend to each enrolled patient with respect and dignity as they work towards long-lasting recovery with the help of FDA-approved medications and substance use counseling. To learn more about the programs available at Middlesex Recovery, message or call a local office today.