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A NIOSH Role in Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention

Categories: Drugs, Workers' Compensation

Prescription drug abuse and overdoses are a major public health concern (Health, United States 2013).  The CDC reports that opioid overdose deaths in particular have quadrupled since 1999, with more than 16,600 deaths in 2010 alone. The CDC has been focused on boosting resources for State prevention efforts and the President’s FY 2015 budget request of $16 million seeks to help States expand and intensify their work to implement interventions.

Prescription drug abuse has a broad reach across all aspects of society. Workers may face unique risks as injuries sustained at work are increasingly treated with powerful prescription drugs including opioids such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Demerol. Recent workers’ compensation studies reveal that prescription costs are continuing to rise, with narcotics accounting for 25% of costs.

NIOSH’s new Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS) is focusing on working with partners to use workers’ compensation data to improve workplace safety and health.  The CWCS teams NIOSH researchers with colleagues in the public and private sectors to explore opportunities for leveraging workers’ compensation data to reduce the incidence of work-related injuries and illnesses.  In addition to efforts to prevent injuries and illesses, the CWCS also seeks to ensure that workers’ compensation medical care is provided in a way that minimizes the risk of opioid dependence. Many states have taken steps to control opioid use in their workers’ compensation systems by limiting opioid availability, educating health care providers on responsible opioid prescribing, and increasing awareness among injured workers.

The CWCS is encouraging state departments of health and workers’ compensation agencies to collaborate on workers’ compensation data trending and is planning future webinars to focus on recent partner opioid prevention activities. Information on grant opportunities related to the prevention of opioid abuse can be found at:

Workers can access a searchable database of substance abuse programs through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) website.  Individual employer assistance programs (EAPs) may also offer useful information.

We have included a listing of prescription drug prevention resources for health care providers as well as additional information on prescription drug abuse. If you know of additional resources, please respond with comments to this blog.

We welcome all feedback as NIOSH works with our partners to prevent the risk of opioid dependence among workers receiving workers’ compensation medical care.

John Howard, MD and  Steve Wurzelbacher, PhD, CPE, ARM

Dr. Howard is the Director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 

Dr. Wurzelbacher is the Director of the NIOSH Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies (CWCS).

Public Comments

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

  1. May 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm ET  -   Rekaya Gibson

    Additional resources:

    SAMHSA Fact Sheets on Preventing Prescription Abuse in the Workplace

    SAMHSA Prescription Drug Abuse Weekly Update

    SAMHSA Prescription Drug Abuse Weekly Update Archive

    Link to this comment

  2. May 20, 2014 at 8:40 am ET  -   ewangelia

    Simply wanna say that this is invaluable , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

    Link to this comment

  3. May 20, 2014 at 12:23 pm ET  -   Robert

    See the Federation of State Medical Boards website for:



    2) Resources for Pharmacovigilance and Pain Management

    Link to this comment

  4. May 20, 2014 at 5:05 pm ET  -   Salomon Skischoenen Dames

    It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I am glad that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

    Link to this comment

  5. July 9, 2014 at 6:04 am ET  -   Teleskyshopping

    Best & informative piece of writing. Its major public health issue, Thanks for including the targeted list of drugs.It would helpful for the public health.

    Link to this comment

  6. July 23, 2014 at 10:25 pm ET  -   Paula K

    Appreciate the article post here. This is something we have seen more of as well from working in substance abuse recovery with families. Keep up raising awareness.

    – Reach Recovery, Greenville, NC

    Link to this comment

  7. July 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm ET  -   Sean

    I’m glad we are trying to solve this problem. It’s becoming a major issue out there

    Link to this comment

  8. July 29, 2014 at 10:39 am ET  -   Rob

    I was searching the web for updated statistics on prescription drug abuse and found this website story about prevention. I work for Drug Treatment Network in South Florida where just a few years ago pill mill doctors were on every other street block shopping center and people could pay $200 to $500 to get a script for opitates, benzo’s and other things. I was wondering how the rest of the Nation has been impacted by that? Although we still see and speak with many people with pill addiction, it seems to be fewer people, but more are on heroin and meth. I’m seeing conflicting stories all over the web, does any government affiliation know or have updated stats?

    Drug Treatment Network

    Link to this comment

  9. October 25, 2014 at 12:52 am ET  -   adminjoko

    Simply wanna say that this is invaluable , Thanks for taking your time to write this.

    Link to this comment

  10. November 25, 2014 at 11:02 am ET  -   ranaseo21

    This article is efficient. Thank you for sharing it with us. I am visiting this blog on a daily basis and I am finding so much helpful article each time. Keep working on this and thank you once again.

    Link to this comment

  11. December 12, 2014 at 5:42 am ET  -   Basim Elhabashy

    Well written and informative blog. Keep it up.

    Link to this comment

  12. January 28, 2015 at 9:15 pm ET  -   Athena

    Thx for information.

    Link to this comment

  13. February 4, 2015 at 10:28 am ET  -   Max

    Great article with a ton of info. There are clinical tools designed to stratify risk with patients in pain management. One of the major one’s is called the Opioid Risk Tool (ORT), which defines risk of becoming addicted to opiates based on historical and clinical factors.

    Link to this comment

  14. February 4, 2015 at 9:34 pm ET  -   Athena

    Thanks for information.

    Link to this comment

  15. March 3, 2015 at 4:06 pm ET  -   Jose Manuel Gracia Lopez

    This article is of great importance to national and cultural level, since many people are falling into addiction by not having a responsible use of medicines, not to receive information about or receive good advice when taking any prescription medica. So I think it is vital to keep well informed and prevented workers against any disease or treatment, and even facilitate a website or a phone so they can contact in case of doubts.

    Thank you very much for the info, really are very useful these items aimed only the good of the population.

    Link to this comment

  16. March 13, 2015 at 3:35 pm ET  -   Brian

    Nice share!

    Link to this comment

  17. March 28, 2015 at 12:33 pm ET  -   Kent Ashby

    This article has given me an awareness and insight into prescription drug abuse, it is not a topic of discussion in my country, it maybe a lack of awareness, statistics or underreporting. I believe that the whole world is a village and what affects one eventually will affect the other. This article will helps us to remain vigilant to the overuse of prescription drugs in our society

    Link to this comment

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