During the last recession, I was working at a magazine read by swimming pool and hot tub professionals. That industry was devastated by the collapse of the housing market, and we covered the topic in almost every issue. In discussing the subject, our editorial team frequently used the phrase, “in the wake of the economic slowdown....” It was journalist-speak picked up from the mainstream media, and while the it described current market conditions, the words became so overused they lacked impact.
The same is true with our lead story this month on the “opioid epidemic.” That sad phrase has become so overly familiar, so of-our-time, that I hesitated to even suggest that we dive into the topic. But just because something is talked about a lot, doesn’t mean there isn’t still more to say that’s important.
The opioid addiction has had an outsize effect on remodeling. The reasons for this are intuitive—the job is hard on the body, leading to injury, and thus painkillers.
Adding to the problem is the issue of secrecy. Every remodeler we spoke with agreed that opioid addiction is a real challenge for the industry ... Yet almost no one would go on the record.
There’s also a need among many trade professionals to get back to work as soon as possible, as one source told me. This makes it all the more tempting to rely on drugs to shut up the protests of a still-healing body.
Indeed, in researching this story, James McClister, our managing editor, came across some grim stats. In 2016 nearly three quarters of injured trade professionals in Ohio were prescribed opioids. That accounts for 13% of all job-related narcotic prescriptions in the state. In Massachusetts, 25% of fatal overdoses from 2011-2015 were from people in the trades.
Adding to the problem is the issue of secrecy. Every remodeler we spoke with agreed that opioid addiction is a real challenge for the industry. Many of them personally knew people who were affected. Yet almost no one would go on the record. While that may be somewhat understandable, it also serves to further stigmatize the disease of addiction. We won’t completely solve this problem until we stop feeding into the culture of shame that surrounds it.
In the end, we decided that the issue of opioids in remodeling was so significant and complex, that it merited a three-part series. Our first story looks at the disease of addiction and examines why it’s so prevalent in our field. Next month, we’ll profile a contractor who’s also a recovering addict. Following that, we’ll take a deep dive into solutions our industry could embrace to combat the problem.
Many of you who know me also know that my son was a opioid addict. He fought the disease with great courage and integrity and had been clean for 13 months at the time of his death. Although Aaron wasn’t involved in the remodeling industry, his battle is no different than that of many trades professionals. I am honored to be shining a light on this problem, and hope our series sparks open conversation and increased knowledge.