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: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=253411.
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.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse
- ACOEM (The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine)
- The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Guideline for Prescribing Opioids to Treat Pain in Injured Workers
- The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation Opioid Prescribing Guidelines
- The National Center for Health Statistics annual report,Health, United States, 2013, includes a special feature on Prescription Drugs.
- The National Safety Council Prescription Pain Medications: A Fatal Cure for Injured Workers
- CDC Vital Signs Today’s Heroin Epidemic
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).