NIOSH Evaluating Opioid Epidemic's Effects on Workers

Director Dr. John Howard's August 2018 "From the Director's Desk" message discusses the research that is under way, including field investigations.

NIOSH has created a new online page that outlines its work on the opioids epidemic, which Director Dr. John Howard calls "[o]ne of the most pressing public health challenges our nation faces today" in his August "From the Editor's Desk" message. CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has reported opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record, he noted.

The page addresses research and field investigations NIOSH is conducting as it examines how the crisis is affecting America's workers.

"According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics, 95% of the total U.S. drug overdose deaths that occurred in 2016 were among the working age population, persons aged 15–64 years. While we do not know how many of these individuals were employed at the time of their overdose, we do know that the work environment, including potential work-related injuries, can increase the potential for opioid use," Howard wrote.

The increased use of potent opioids such as fentanyl and its analogs is an emerging threat to law enforcement officers, firefighters, first responders, ambulance attendants, and others who may be exposed through their work, he added, explaining that NIOSH has worked closely with its partners to develop guidance for emergency responders and health care workers who are at risk for exposure to fentanyl and its analogs.

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