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How Duluth’s heroin problem can creep into the workforce

On Behalf of | Nov 8, 2017 | Workers' Compensation |

You would have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the severe opiate problem in Duluth, as well as across the nation. Heroin, once considered an inner-city scourge, has swept across the heartland of America, taking all prisoners to the grips of addiction.

But you don’t have to be an addict, or even the family member of one, for the opioid problem to negatively affect your life and well-being.

Opiate drug usage in the workforce

It’s easy to think that if you are not employed in an industry that could be directly affected by a stoned-out employee that the opioid crisis cannot touch your workplace. That viewpoint, however, is naive at best. Consider the following scenarios.

If you are a bricklayer hard at work on the job and a coworker nods out while driving a loaded forklift, you can face crippling injuries — or worse — if the raw material cargo topples over you as you kneel laying bricks.

Similarly, a pharmacist behind the counter of the local drug store can wind up shot by a nervous, gun-wielding junkie when he robs the all-night pharmacy.

Even those tasked with resuscitating the overdosing addicts and dealing with the lifeless bodies of those beyond revivification can be adversely affected by the sheer number of casualties they encounter on a daily basis.

Duluth terminus of Chicago’s heroin pipeline

A few years ago, in an article with the Duluth News Tribune, the Minneapolis Drug Enforcement Agency referred to St. Louis County as heroin’s “ground zero.”

When heroin hits the streets of Duluth, it likely arrives from the Chicago pipeline. When the overdoses begin in the Windy City, Duluth authorities know to gird themselves for the fatalities that will arrive within hours or days. When the drug is contaminated with the much stronger painkiller, fentanyl, the overdose rates skyrocket.

It’s not just heroin

Few addicts start with heroin, although that is what many of those who can’t kick their habits typically wind up turning to. Many addicts descend into the nightmare of opioid addiction after their family physician prescribes painkillers for a minor injury or illness. Patients who like the euphoric feeling may request refills, and perhaps turn to buying pills on the street. From there, it’s an easy slide to trying the cheaper and even more accessible heroin.

If you wind up injured on the job because of an opiate-addicted coworker’s negligence, you have the right to pursue financial compensation for all of your injuries. Even damages from secondary injuries, such as depression after a long convalescence, can be sought.