Construction workers hit hard by opioid epidemic — Here's what 1 trade group is doing about it

Jon O'Brian, executive director of Keystone Contractors Association, which represents commercial construction workers across Pennsylvania, created an opioid awareness campaign after learning many young apprentices were overdosing on heroin, according The Morning Call.

"We need to be proactive," Mr. O'Brien told The Morning Call. He decided to make the week of July 22 "Construction Opioid Awareness Week" in Pennsylvania.

The effort marks the first time the construction industry in Pennsylvania is sounding an alarm about a problem that disproportionately affects its members, Mr. O'Brien told The Morning Call.

In 2016, the construction industry employed around 10.3 million people in the U.S. A 2015 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration found 11.6 percent of construction workers, representing about 1.1 million employees, used illicit drugs for pain management in 2015. Most of the users were young individuals, since the average age of construction workers in Pennsylvania is 46.

The initiative started with construction workers receiving a sticker, reading "Opioids: Warn me," designed to prompt conversation between construction workers and physicians about the addictive nature of opioids.

Keystone Contractors Association is partnering with local  police to aid in collecting unused prescription medication from construction workers. The opioid awareness week will also feature a structured talk featuring common work-related risks due to opioid use, employee assistance benefit programs for addiction and how to discuss opioids with physicians.

More artilces on opioids: 

3 ways art therapy helps pain management
Viewpoint: Privacy laws hurt patients with opioid use disorder
27K deaths attributed to fentanyl and new synthetic opioids in 2017

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