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November 13, 2018

Why people working in the construction industry are six times more likely to die of an overdose than other workers

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Construction workers are dying from opioid overdoses across the country, both because they are often forced to work hard jobs through the pain of injuries in order to provide for their families—and because there is money to be made off their pain.

A recent report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows that people working in construction are six times more likely to die an opioid-related death than all other workers in the state. That means nearly a quarter of all people who died from opioid overdoses in Massachusetts, a state with one of the highest overdose rates in the country, were employed in construction.

Elsewhere in the country, overdose death rates for construction workers are even higher. In Ohio, they are seven times more likely than other workers to die from an overdose in 2016, according to an analysis by The Plain Dealer. That’s roughly the same rate the Midwest Economic Policy Institute found across the entire Midwest—which also includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

The lethal link between construction work, pain, injury, and powerful painkillers is no mystery to researchers or people in the industry. In one study, 75 percent of workers said they were recently dealing with musculoskeletal pain and four out of ten said they’d been injured in the month before.

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