Construction Sector Leads in Massachusetts Opioid Deaths

BOSTON (CN) – Opioid overdoses cause 1 in 3 construction-worker deaths in Massachusetts, a new report from the state has found.

Carried out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the study examined 4,302 opioid deaths from 2011-15 based on occupation.

Excluding deaths from the unemployed or where employment status was not clear, researchers found an average of 25.1 deaths per 100,000 workers. In the construction industry, which accounted for a fourth of all deaths, that figure jumped to 124.9.

There were 107.5 deaths in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries. Transportation and warehousing had 48.3 deaths; administrative and support and waste management services had 43.1; and accommodation and food service had 36.5.

The report found a link between higher rates of opioid abuse and professions where back injuries were more common and where paid sick leave was less common.

“This sobering report confirms that hazardous jobs are not just dangerous because of the risk of fatal injury, but because they can also directly lead to tragic opioid addiction that can shatter families and end lives,” Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, said in a statement. “It also makes clear that if those working to end the opioid epidemic in our state are not looking at investing in policies and efforts that reduce work-related injuries, they are missing a key strategy.”

The report follows a similar one that was published by The BMJ, which found that opioids are consumed in the United States far more than in any other country.

A national survey found that 65 million opioid prescriptions were written between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2018.

Meanwhile more than 60 of Massachusetts’ 351 municipalities have sued pharmaceutical companies for their contributions to the national opioid crisis.

All of those cases were transferred to the Northern District of Ohio, where Purdue Pharma faces lawsuits from 882 towns, counties and government employee unions from across the country, according to a Pacer search.

A spokesman from Purdue Pharma did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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