Opioid Abuse

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Opioid Abuse Safety Talk

It is no secret that opioid abuse in the United States is an epidemic. While these drugs have been a problem for years, there has now been a recent national spotlight on the issue. It is important to understand how common this issue is, the side effects of abuse, and how abuse can affect an entire workplace.

Opioid Abuse Statistics

  • Roughly 21% to 29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • More than 49,800 people died from opioid overdoses in 2019 in the US, according to drugabuse.gov.
  • A recent article published by Forbes featured interviews with construction company owners and developers, and they stated, “there is a problem in the construction industry, and it has made reliable labor an unattainable commodity across the country.”

Opioid Abuse Effects

The side effects of opioid abuse are fairly varied and may include:
(source: www.drugabuse.com)

  • Drowsiness
  • Lethargy
  • Paranoia
  • Respiratory depression
  • Nausea

drugs in the workplaceIt is easy to imagine how opioid abuse and the side effects it brings could have negative effects on the work of those who suffer from addiction. Moreover, not only is the person who is under the influence of the drugs at an increased risk for injury or death while at work, but everyone around the worker is as well.

Image the increased risk for injury and death that is present if a single crane operator is under the influence of these drugs. Now, what if 100 workers are under the influence of opioids on a 2,000-person construction site?  With today’s prevalence of abuse of these drugs, this scenario could be a reality if steps are not taken to screen workers prior to employment and report issues as they arise.


If you are battling substance abuse issues, whether it is opioids or another drug, seek help. There are many programs out there that can help with addiction. Many of these programs are often offered by your employer, union, or public organizations within the community.

If you suspect a coworker is suffering from an addiction problem, speak with a supervisor. Opioid abuse is not just their problem when it carries over into the workplace. The side effects these drugs bring with their use can create dangerous situations where many people could be injured or killed on the job.

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