State study finds fatal opioid overdoses rose among workers

Fatal opioid overdoses nearly doubled in recent years among Massachusetts workers, with the construction, farming and fishing industries among the hardest hit sectors, according to an updated study from the state Department of Public Health released Monday.

The new state report, which builds on a prior study covering 2011-2015, shows the rate of opioid-related overdose deaths among workers across all industries increased from 25 deaths per 100,000 workers from 2011-2015 to 46 in 2016-2017.

Within the construction industry, the rate of fatal opioid overdoses went from 125 per 100,000 workers in 2011-2015 to 229 from 2016-2017, according to the report. Among workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting trades, the death rate increased from about 107 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2011-2015 to 221 in 2016-2017.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health, a workers advocacy group, said the updated data shows policymakers need to invest in workplace-related substance abuse prevention and recovery strategies.

Some of state's projected $90 million share in the nationwide settlement with the Sackler family and its opioid-making company, Purdue Pharma, should go to such programs, the organization said.

“It is clear that work can be both a pathway to opioid use and addiction as well as a pathway to recovery,” Jodi Sugerman-Brozan, the coalition's executive director, said in a statement. “We must do all we can to prevent the kinds of injury, stress, and pain that lead workers to opioid use and help them get the recovery services they need when it does happen.”



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