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Article / A Building Epidemic - Opioid Awareness

A Building Epidemic - Opioid Awareness.

Construction sites are dangerous places; heavy equipment, electric tools, scaffolds and a lot of people working in close quarters. If just one worker is not paying attention, or is otherwise impaired on the job, disaster can strike. While illegal drug use gets much attention and press coverage, it's estimated that two million Americans with a drug problem are addicted to prescription opiates. In other words, their drug of choice is not only legal, it's being given to them under a doctor's care.

In the 1990s, OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet became popular prescriptions for the treatment of chronic pain. Many experts blame aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies, coupled with doctors over-prescribing these addictive drugs, for the alarming rise in prescription abuse that we are seeing today. Some opiates, like those prescribed by a doctor, are legal. Others, like heroin, are not.

Whether legal or outlawed they all work the same: blocking pain signals to the brain and giving off a side effect usually described as "warm and fuzzy." But other, negative side effects include nausea, sedation, vomiting and dizziness. Because the legal drugs work on the same part of the brain as the illicit ones, there is a well-documented history of people starting with prescription pain pills but eventually moving on to stronger more hardcore dangerous drugs. "It starts with the prescription painkillers and that’s what we need to educate people on," said addiction specialist Robert Riley, founder of a non-profit that helps heroin addicts.

Due to injuries and the physical demands of construction work, men and women in the trades are at greater risk. A recent survey revealed that the spending on opioids among construction workers is five to 10 percent higher than other industries, suggesting we’re having a much bigger struggle with this epidemic than the average American.

A friend's fight to save others:
Don Willey and I attended high school and ran track together in the late 1970s. Don is the Business Manager of Laborers' LU 110. He is a good man who is doing his part in reaching out to others in the fight to stop heroin/opioid abuse and overcome the stigma of mental illness.

In March of 2016 his 36-year old son passed away after a 15-year battle.

The following video shares Don's story and passion:

- Dr. John Gaal

If you or a family member is having a problem with addiction, there are many resources for information, treatment and recovery.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse

American Medical Association


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