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Construction Workers Unite To Fight Addiction

If you think about it, it’s not hard to imagine the opioid crisis rearing its ugly head into the construction industry. Injuries are a common occurrence in that field and it is very physically demanding. Painkiller prescriptions often accompany these issues which, in turn, gravitate into full-blown addictions. Now, however, several national unions are banding together to help those suffering and de-stigmatize their dependencies.

The Boston Globe recently highlighted a major conference happening in their city, specifically focused on addiction within the construction industry. For an entire week, recovery specialists, speakers and alumni will be gathering to build awareness and lend support to the cause.

The Building Trades Employers’ Association is leading the charge, with labor director Thomas Gunning III acting as the group’s official spokesman.

“We don’t [push] someone away who gets cancer or diabetes; we shouldn’t get rid of someone who suffers addiction,” Gunning told The Globe. “It’s a disease of the mind, and we want to help them.”

Boston mayor Martin J. Walsh will also speak at the conference, along with several other local officials. Walsh’s team recently released some newer stats on the issue, which should hopefully shed light on just how seriously this industry has been impacted by opioids.

According to the new data, nearly one quarter of fatal overdoses in the last five yeas occurred among people working in construction. In Massachusetts, 150 of every 150,000 construction workers lose their life because of an opioid-related death.

Another sad fact is that construction workers often end up homeless because of their addictions. Those involved in manual labor tend to make lower wages and when injuries sideline them, they lose all primary income (and usually spend the rest of their savings on using).

Gunning, himself, openly admits to battling a severe painkiller addiction. An unexpected fall on a job site can quickly spiral into prescriptions and dependencies, which he said claimed his sanity for more than a decade.

“It’s a very tough trade,” Gunning concluded. “[Workers] may have been given a painkiller to offset an injury, and before they know it, they have a full-blown addiction. Good people are dying, and the statistics aren’t in our favor. We want to save lives, we want to give hope to those who are struggling, and we want to provide a platform with answers and resources to people who need it.”