The opioid epidemic that in recent years has spread across the country, impacting workers in a variety of jobs, has also become a particularly troublesome challenge for the construction industry.
According to reports, incidences of opioid addiction among construction workers have been on the increase now for more than 5 years, but more particularly since the onset of the Covid-19 virus.
Noting the large number of injuries that can take place at the work site, leading to back pain and strained shoulders, “workers can get hooked on strong prescription drugs such as fentanyl, oxycodone, and morphine, and street drugs like heroin,” notes the Wall Street Journal.
The publication adds that although hard numbers are elusive, construction workers, according to a Barclays Research report in 2019, are six times as likely as workers in other industries to become addicted to opioids.
Opioids are regarded as safe when prescribed by a physician and taken for a short period of time, notes the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
But because they not only relieve pain, but can also create a state of euphoria for users, opioids can often lead to ongoing addictions as well as overdoses and death.
Construction workers are particularly vulnerable to opioid addiction, says the Center for Construction Research and Training, because when injured they are often unable to continue to work. Even more, workers’ compensation for an injury is often not enough to make up for lost pay.
A continued use of opioids, the thinking goes, solves both problems.
Other reports indicate that aging workers have oftentimes turned to opioids to relieve the pain from injuries, realizing that their bodies don’t recover from such injuries as quickly as when they were in their 20s or 30s.
The National Safety Council is now advancing an initiative called the National Plan to Address Opioid Misuse, which is calling on employers to embrace systemic approaches to curtail opioid use in the workplace.
In urging President-elect Joe Biden to take on the plan as a national policy priority, the NSC is also recommending improved worksite training and education pertaining to the dangers of opioids.
The plan is additionally calling for support efforts to help workers undergoing addiction treatment to gradually return to work, while also expanding insurance coverage to include non-opioid treatment options.
During the recent presidential campaign, Biden proposed a $125 billion program deigned to both prevent opioid abuse and enhance treatment and recovery services.
By Garry Boulard
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