Drug Overdose in the Workplace

Aloha, Colleagues,

Thank you for taking the time to read this message: It’s contents are alarming.

As nurses, we are well-aware of the rising prevalence of drug abuse, particularly the opioids.

As drug overdose fatalities increase in frequency in Hawaii and beyond, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released the results of a study on drug overdoses in the workplace. The findings are horrific.

Nearly half of workplace overdose deaths occurred in three industries: healthcare, transportation, & construction, with heroin being the most common cause of fatality. What could be worse than these 3 high-risk areas where compromised mental status of a single worker places so many lives at risk?

As we are sadly aware, opiate use is both a personal risk factor for work-related injury as well as a consequence of workplace injury hazards.  In the construction industry for example, “a greater number of physical hazards increase the risk of on-the-job injuries and chronic musculoskeletal conditions. These outcomes lead to prescription opioid use for the injury and, in some cases, subsequent misuse. This may affect the worker’s ability to return to work or to function safely in the workplace, and could also increase the risk for opioid use disorder or overdose death” (NIOSH, 2019). The same could be said about the healthcare and transportation industries.

One screening question I always ask patients is, “what about work?” Clearly, I need to rethink the idea that if my patients are working , they are doing okay. Many are not.

So, what can we, as nurses do? Educating our selves, our patients, their families, and other staff, and keeping a high awareness of risk is important.  Encouraging addictions treatment, supporting the efforts of others and carrying naloxone are important decisions to make. Reaching out to workplaces (including our own) to share this research is very important.

Mahalo for all you do!
Leslie

For more information visit
https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/early/2019/04/09/injuryprev-2018-043104

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2019-101/establish.html

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fentanyl/default.html