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Drug Overdose in the Workplace and the Importance of Safety Programs
In a science blog from the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, posted on Feb., 3, 2020, they reported that the drug overdose epidemic continues to afflict our country. Nationally, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involving opioids (such as fentanyl, heroin and hydrocodone), stimulants (such as cocaine and methamphetamine), and alcohol. Nearly 70% of these deaths involved an opioid.
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that drug overdoses at work are increasing. National data identified that while drug overdose deaths were less frequent compared with other causes of occupational injury deaths, there was an annual increase of 24% in drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016. Opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl accounted for 44% of the drug overdose deaths at work between 2011 and 2016. Illicit drugs such as methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP) and cocaine accounted for 24% of these deaths.
A previously published report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health using data from state death certificates from 2011-2015 found that the rate of fatal opioid-related overdose was higher among workers employed in industries and occupations known to have high rates of work-related injuries and illnesses. This finding is consistent with previous research documenting common use of prescribed opioids for management of acute and chronic pain following work-related injury.
The latest information from NIOSH and from Massachusetts underscores the need for educational and policy interventions targeting high-rate worker populations to prevent drug overdose deaths. One intervention should be to address workplace hazards that cause injuries for which opioids are prescribed.
PHASE Associates has the experience and qualified personnel to assist you in developing a comprehensive safety and health program that will help you reduce workplace injuries and the potential for substance misuse/abuse.