Fatal Opioid Overdoses: Working in Pain

Fatal Opioid Overdoses: Working in Pain

An August, 2018, report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) on the use of opioid pain medication has revealed a construction industry workforce at great risk of dying from overdoses. The MDPH discovered that workers are often hurt on the job, are then prescribed opioid painkillers, take them to keep working, and become addicted in the process.

Why is this cycle of drug abuse occurring? Construction workers don’t usually get sick time, and they might even lose their jobs if they don’t come to work regardless of how they feel. Doctors who prescribe opioids inappropriately also contribute to the crisis.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we understand how it can feel to be out of options. If you need assistance with a construction or workplace accident claim, call us to start working toward a solution.

Opioid Abuse Numbers

The MDPH’s report determined that construction workers were six times more likely to overdose on opioids than any other workers in the state. For those employees who cannot take time off from work for illness, such as those in forestry, fishing, and farming, the likelihood of an opioid overdose death was five times the average worker’s risk.

These figures reflect mostly males. For females, those in food preparation and health care support are more likely to suffer an opioid overdose than the average worker in Massachusetts.

Across the United States, 115 people died daily from opioid overdose in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Heroin is a well-known opioid, but this class of drugs also includes many prescription medications containing hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine. Fentanyl, a surgical anesthetic, is used illicitly with greater frequency these days.

South Carolina has a burgeoning opioid abuse problem of its own. The year 2017 showed a spike in opioid deaths for the third year in a row, with 748 fatalities for the year. The number of opioid deaths for 2016 was 616. Deaths from fentanyl took a large jump as well, to 362 persons in 2017.

The National Safety Council reported in 2015 that there had been 15 court cases over the previous six years involving injured workers who had died from opioid overdoses. In some of the cases, the courts ruled that, when a worker died after taking opioid pain medications because of a compensable workplace injury, the fatality could trigger compensation under workers’ comp.

A Cycle of Pain and Dependency

Those who become addicted to opioids because of workplace injuries often begin a cycle of dependency based on their pain. They struggle with their addiction and sometimes lose their jobs. However, construction and similar fields are often good places for those with an intermittent job history to find employment. Sometimes, those who cannot get to the workers’ comp doctor may seek illicit opioids in order to keep working so they can keep food on the table while they are waiting for their appointment.

A professor of environmental health at the Boston University School of Public Health, Leslie I. Boden, noted that his research has shown that injured workers die more often from suicide and drugs. “We need to pay more attention to preventing those injuries so that workers are not working in pain . . . [They] might very well decide it was better to use opioids than to risk losing their job,” Boden said.

Get Help from Our Workplace Injury Lawyers

Since 1959, the Louthian Law Firm has helped injured South Carolinians win compensation for construction injuries and fatalities. We know our clients often come to us during a stressful time in their lives. That’s why we promise our clients personalized service outside of court and knowledgeable, aggressive representation at the negotiation table and at trial.

With a workplace accident lawsuit, you may be able to collect financial compensation for your medical bills, missed work, injuries, disability and other serious, long-term effects of the accident. If a family member was killed in a workplace accident, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

The South Carolina construction accident lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm are here to help you. Call us today for a free and confidential consultation, or use our online contact form. When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.