While opioid addiction can affect people from every profession, it has impacted the construction industry in America immeasurably. The crisis has made it challenging for construction companies to maintain a healthy workforce, consequently, affecting project deadlines and budgets. With an estimated 15.1 percent of construction workers misusing drugs, the costs to the industry continues to be staggering.
The construction industry workforce is predominantly male, and this in large part is why opioid misuse is so high. Men are more likely to abuse substances than women are. Older construction workers deal with chronic injuries acquired over the years while younger workers are more likely to try drugs for recreational purposes. And because construction work can be dangerous, there are more on-the-job injuries than there are in many other industries.
Slower reflexes and a dulled response while working increase the chances for injuries if a worker is taking opioids for a previous injury. This can create a snowball effect of opioid use and further injury, with each affecting the other. This cycle creates a major personal problem for the worker and in turn, causes problems for the employer.
Facts about opioid misuse:
- Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
- Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.
- The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
The good news is that change is underway. Trades and organizations are beginning to work with recovery communities to encourage addiction treatment for people who need it. Overcoming the stigma and fear of loss of privacy is a major factor among construction workers, who are often reluctant to seek treatment. Adjusting the culture of companies is needed so that workers feel safe in getting help for their opioid problem.
While it’s more common in the construction industry to conduct post-accident drug testing, would it not be a more proactive solution to have a worker tested who is using opioids and showing signs of not performing safety sensitive functions on the jobsite? By conducting supervisor awareness training, it would become more apparent what to look for that could be a safety risk. This could possibly prevent more accidents.
Opioid addiction is a very real disease and addiction treatment is the only positive way forward, with personalized, comprehensive addiction treatment that accounts for the whole person – physically, emotionally, and mentally. Follow-up care and services can help people move from addiction treatment back into the community. Recognizing the problem and asking for help are the first important steps toward recovery.