Construction workers among most susceptible to opioid abuse
- Those in the construction trades are more susceptible to opioid abuse than those in all but the food service industry, according to a Bisnow report published in Forbes. Estimates from CNA put illicit drug use among construction workers at 15.1%.
- The industry's statistical tendency toward abuse can partially be attributed to its male-dominated primary workforce. Men are twice as likely to use drugs in an illicit manner than are women.
- Construction workers also tend to face greater physical wear, often leading them to be prescribed opioid pain medication that would allow them continue to work on the job site.
While the U.S. faces a national opioid epidemic, the construction industry and its workers are among those who are being hit hardest by its ramifications.
Claim data from CNA found that the construction industry's total prescription opioid spend held at 20% from 2009 to 2013. That figure is 5-10% higher than any other industry represented in the study. More still, CNA found, the injuries leading to opioid abuse can both drive up business costs and strengthen the likelihood that injured employees using opioids can increase the chance of injuries to themselves and others.
Lost time, job turnover and retraining, and healthcare are among the biggest costs substance abuse can incur, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found. According to that data, a construction company with 100 workers can expect to lose $40,839 each year in Oklahoma, $43,538 in Massachusetts and $38,140 in Texas — three of the states with the highest frequency of opioid abuse.
Last week, President Donald Trump declared a public health emergency in response to the opioid crisis. While that declaration could mean accelerated hiring processes for those equipped to tackle the issue, greater access to telemedicine services and the possibility of a policy that could give more facilities the green light to provide treatment, it's unclear when those actions could be rolled out en masse.
As construction companies continue to face challenges from opioid abuse among their workforce, employers would do well to educate employees about responsible prescription drug use and how those drugs can become addictive. Construction companies can also help workers understand the risk associated with opioids and determine how best to support injured workers' return to the job site.
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