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Addressing addiction during the coronavirus outbreak

By: The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of Washington

This “Good of the Order” article appeared in the quarterly publication of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302.

As the construction industry begins to re-open and return to work, it’s time for some straight talk about pain medications and addiction. Members of unions like Local 302 are at an increased risk of injury on the job. One slip, trip or fall might mean a trip to the doctor’s and perhaps a prescription for opioid pain medication. The added stress of COVID-19 has made returning to and staying at work even more important, which means ignoring the pain in order to maintain hours and income at any cost.

Local 302 is taking steps to identify, talk to, and support members who may be experiencing addiction or managing recovery. We need your help. Our partners at the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of Washington (RALI WA), as well as other local and national groups, have shared several tips and resources you can use right now:

Tips to prevent opioid reliance and addiction:

  • Ask your doctor how to use a prescription medication before taking it and follow their recommendations closely.

  • Do not share medications with family members or friends, either by giving them some of yours, or by accepting theirs. This may seem harmless – but it can lead to misuse.

  • When you are finished with prescription medication, be sure to get rid of it quickly rather than holding on to it for later.

  • You can safely dispose of medications using items in your home. Simply mix unused medications with coffee grounds or cat litter in an airtight container and throw it in the trash. Learn more about disposing of unused medications right at home at

How to get support

  • IUOE offers an online Substance Abuse Resource Center with videos and educational resources

  • RALI WA, which Local 302 is a member, offers safe disposal pouches to help you get rid of unused medications. Call the hall for more information.

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline is open 24/7 for people experiencing substance use disorders and mental health challenges. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) to be connected with someone, or for assistance with treatment referrals.

These are difficult times we’re in. Local 302 is strong because members stick together and support each other. Please stay safe and help your brothers and sisters stay healthy.

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