Opioid Workplace Abuse

23 November 2019

Construction has one of the highest rates of injury when compared to other industries. Dangerous working conditions combined with grueling physical labor can lead to injury. When your livelihood depends upon your ability to perform physical activity, something like a fall or a bad back can be devastating- loss of wages, inability to work, and an upswing in the possibility of anxiety and depression.   The Center for Disease Control and prevention notes that opioids have commonly been prescribed to construction workers to treat the pain caused by occupational injuries. The industry also has higher rates of opioid overdose death compared to other groups.

What are opioids and why are they dangerous?

Simply put, opioids are a class of drugs administered to treat pain. Common types include oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine. When prescribed for chronic pain, and not carefully monitored by a doctor, they are highly addictive and very dangerous. Over a time of prolonged use, a tolerance for the drug builds up in the system, and the generally ‘good’ feeling – more specifically pain relief, diminishes.  This leads many people to take more opioids which can lead to overdose and death. Workers who are actively abusing opioids put fellow workers in danger as well, especially those in charge of operating heavy, potentially dangerous machinery.

Data from the CDC shows that opioids were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, which accounts for almost 68% percent of all drug related deaths. 

What can you do?

One of the most important steps that can be taken as an employer to prevent opioid abuse in the workplace is to provide a safe work environment. Reduce or eliminate the risk of injury!  Make sure your safety program, safety rules and procedures address the hazards found in your place of business.

Education is of vital importance as well. Knowing what to ask doctors, knowing the risk factors and knowing that there are alternative treatment options, such as non-opioid pain relievers, exercise and physical therapy.

If you or someone you know needs help for a substance use disorder, call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP or go to https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/

For more information about opioids in the workplace, visit https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/opioids/extramuralresearch.html

With all the changes in the drug laws (primarily marijuana) and the opioid epidemic, prudent employers are reviewing their written drug policies for effectiveness in protecting their workers.  If you’d like help with this, please contact us at Friday@mrsoshasafety.com or 800.200.0888.