Oct 2019

Rhode Island construction workers have been impacted by the opioid epidemic, according to recent state data

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorney

Deaths related to opioid overdoses have grown to epidemic levels over the past few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 47,600 died in 2017 after using prescription opioids, heroin, and fentanyl — marking the highest number of opioid-related deaths in a single year. What’s more alarming, 37 percent of these deaths involved opioids prescribed by doctors.

Those who work in occupations that are physically demanding are at a heightened risk of opioid overdoses. That’s because doctors often prescribe opioids for work-related injuries — many of which are severe. This is done in order to manage pain while an injured worker recovers. It does, however, put workers at risk of addiction.

Rhode Island construction workers affected by opioids

According to preliminary data released by the Rhode Island Department of Health in August, construction and extraction workers accounted for nearly 20 percent of all statewide drug overdose fatalities. From July 2016 – June 2018, approximately 569 people died from overdoses — 103 of which were construction and extraction workers.

The report lumped construction in with the maintenance and natural resources industries, which together had an overdose fatality rate of 176.7 per 100,000 workers. Roughly 140 overdose deaths occurred among those who work in construction, maintenance, and natural resources. About 80 percent of those deaths were linked to fentanyl — a synthetic opioid deemed 50 times more potent than heroin.

National figures on workers’ comp-related opioid prescriptions

The CDC cites figures from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health which estimates that 66.7 percent of “self-reported illicit opioid users” were either full- or part-time workers.

Workers’ compensation data cited by the CDC says:

  • 44 percent of 2016 workers’ compensation claims involving prescriptions included at least one opioid prescription. This figure, however, has declined 55 percent since 2012.
  • 15 percent of workers’ compensation claims (as of 2016) with at least one opioid prescription had a date of injury in 2010 or prior, 30 percent from 2011-2014, and 55 percent no earlier than 2014.
  • Between 2008-2013 across 28 states, opioids prescribed to workers’ compensation recipients who had sustained back injuries (more than 7 days away from work) resulted in triple the recovery time in contrast with those who didn’t receive prescriptions.

If you have been injured on the job or have suffered complications due to an opioid prescription, it’s critical that you discuss this matter with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you weigh your legal options. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl serves clients in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. To find out how we can help you, contact us online and set up your free case evaluation.

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