Naloxone in the Workplace
Opioid misuse and overdose deaths from opioids are serious health issues in the United States. Naloxone is a very effective drug for reversing opioid overdoses. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developed a factsheet to help employers and workers understand the risk of opioid overdose and help them decide if they should establish a workplace naloxone program.
One of the most pressing public health challenges our nation faces today is the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses. Provisional data show that there were more than 49,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, including at workplaces. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that overdose deaths at work from non-medical use of drugs or alcohol increased by at least 38% annually between 2013 and 2016. The 217 workplace overdose deaths reported in 2016 accounted for 4.2% of occupational injury deaths that year, compared with 1.8% in 2013 [BLS 2017]. Workplaces that serve the public (i.e. libraries, restaurants, parks) may also have visitors who overdose while onsite.
Anyone at a workplace, including workers, clients, customers, and visitors, is at risk of overdose if they use opioids. Call 911 immediately for any suspected overdose. Consider implementing a program to make naloxone available in the workplace in the event of an overdose. You will need policies and procedures for the program. These should be developed in consultation with safety and health professionals. Involve the workplace safety committee (if present) and include worker representatives. You also will need a plan to purchase, store, and administer naloxone in case of overdose.
Considering a Workplace Naloxone Use Program
Naloxone is an effective drug for reversing opioid overdoses. Naloxone hydrochloride (also known as naloxone, NARCAN® or EVZIO®) is a drug that can temporarily stop many of the life-threatening effects of overdoses from opioids. Naloxone can help restore breathing and reverse the sedation and unconsciousness that are common during an opioid overdose.
Workplaces should consider implementing a program to make naloxone available in the event of an overdose. It may not be feasible to implement in all workplaces, however, consider making naloxone available as part of a comprehensive workplace safety and health program. The new NIOSH factsheet provides additional detail for consideration.