Editor's Note: Painkillers, workers and families
This month, Associate Editor Sarah Trotto explores how the use of prescription painkillers in the United States is affecting the workforce and what employers can do to address the problem. Although the number of overdoses has risen alarmingly over the past decade, painkiller abuse is not a new issue. Another thing that hasn’t changed is how it affects family and friends.
In the 1990s, the dad of one of my closest friends bravely sought treatment for addiction to medications that were prescribed after a struck-by injury at work left him with chronic and disabling pain. However, 20 years after successfully completing the program, his injured muscles are atrophying and the pain is increasing – and his new doctors have prescribed opioid painkillers. For my friend, fear for her father’s well-being is a permanent part of her life.
I’m also acquainted with a woman whose son, days after the start of a new job, was riding in a car that was involved in a horrific crash. The following year was dominated by surgical procedures and excruciating pain. His physical injuries have healed to the extent that they’re going to and he returned to work, but I’ve recently learned he has entered a facility for painkiller addiction. His mother believes a major reason he takes too many pills is fear – fear that if he stops taking them, the pain will come back full-force and he won’t be able to bear it. It’s heartbreaking.
Safety pro Rex Butler is a good friend to Safety+Health and one of the most frequent commenters on our website. I was aware that Rex feels strongly that prescription drug abuse is an under-discussed topic in the occupational safety and health community, but it wasn’t until Sarah was looking for sources for her article that I learned Rex had lost a brother to an overdose. We thank him for his courage in sharing his story and his commitment to preventing other families from experiencing a similar loss.