The Dangers of Opioids in the Workplace

The Dangers of Opioids in the Workplace

The Biden administration released its first set of drug policy priorities.

Drug overdose is the number one cause of unintentional death in the U.S.

According to the CDC, in 2018, more than 67,000 people died from drug overdoses. The main culprit of the deaths being opioids, including: prescriptions, heroin and fentanyl.

The Biden administration released its first set of drug policy priorities after overdose deaths hit record numbers during the pandemic. The priorities provide a guide to ensure that the federal government promotes evidence-based public health and public safety interventions.

The priorities are:

  • Expanding access to evidence-based treatment
  • Advancing racial equity issues in our approach to drug policy
  • Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts
  • Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use
  • Reducing the supply of illicit substances
  • Advancing recovery-ready workplaces and expanding the addiction workforce
  • Expanding access to recovery support services.

According to the National Safety Council, opioids are most often used to treat acute or chronic pain. Employees who are prescribed prescription opioids may be at risk for opioid impairment in the workplace or developing an opioid use disorder. Impaired employees pose a safety hazard to themselves, co-workers and the environment they’re in. This is important to note because there are very safety-sensitive industries that are dangerously affected, such as: construction, transportation and material moving operations that put employees at a higher risk for workplace injury.

Opioids can also impair thinking and reaction time, affecting performance and safety sensitive tasks. This can lead to serious mistakes when performing a job that requires focus, attention to detail and quick reaction time.

The NSC created a free toolkit to help address opioid use in the workplace and how it impacts it. The online toolkit includes sample policies, fact sheets, presentations and more.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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