The Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council hosted an opioid summit in Columbus at the Hollywood Casino to address why and how Ohioans, including construction workers, are falling victim to opioids.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2017 there were 4,293 opioid deaths in Ohio, which equates to 39.2 deaths per 100,000 people. The Buckeye trailed only West Virginia, which recorded 833 opioid deaths – a rate of 49.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
Regional building trade leaders and representatives from Local Unions and District Councils heard multiple speakers discuss the issue of painkillers, why they are over prescribed and what is being done to deal with the problem.
Business Representatives Mike Tipton and Rick Perdue, along with Dayton Apprenticeship Instructor Tony Stephens, represented Sheet Metal Workers Local 24 at the event.
Throughout the summit, speakers made it clear, opioid addiction can happen to people, regardless of age, race, education or economic status.
According to Dr. Ali Mchaourab, Chief of Pain Medicine Service at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veteran Affairs Medical Center, most doctors are aware they overprescribe narcotic painkillers, but continue to do so.
Among the reasons for overprescribing painkillers is due to the evaluation of pain as a requirement of proper patient care. Pain assessment and management is now as important as the assessment and management of other vital signs such as temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate. He stated other factors that have led to the crisis include the pharmaceutical lobby, insurance companies and an entitlement culture, where patients think any type of pain is bad and everyone should be pain-free all the time.
Dr. Mchaourab also discussed the results of a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which concluded that for people with moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain, opioid treatment was not superior compared to non-opioid treatment.
Michael Betz, Assistant Professor of the Department of Human Sciences at The Ohio State University, presented data showing how construction workers fall into a number of high-risk opioid user categories.
According to Betz, the epidemic most disproportionately effects people who have a high school diploma, GED or less education. Overdoses are also more likely to affect white men as compared to any other race or gender. Unfortunately, most building trades members fall into at least one of these categories.
Other speakers provided insights into the law enforcement aspect of the problem, how Ohio policy has changed over the past several years to work to combat the problem and a history of opioid use in the U.S.
Any members who are concerned about an opioid addiction can contact the Employee Assistance Plan for private and confidential help.