Using Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose in the Workplace: Information for Employers and Workers

October 2018
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2019-101

Opioids and Work

Using Naloxone to Reverse Opioid Overdose in the Workplace: Information for Employers and Workers pdf icon[PDF – 785 KB]

Opioid overdoses are occurring in 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]. This large increase in overdose deaths in the workplace (from all drugs) parallels a surge in overall overdose deaths from opioids reported by CDC [2017]. Workplaces that serve the public (i.e. libraries, restaurants, parks) may also have visitors who overdose while onsite.

Workplace risk factors for opioid use

Opioids are often initially prescribed to manage pain arising from a work injury. Risky workplace conditions that lead to injury, such as slip, trip, and fall hazards or heavy workloads, can be associated with prescription opioid use [Kowalski-McGraw et al. 2017]. Other factors, such as job insecurity, job loss, and high-demand/low-control jobs may also be associated with prescription opioid use [Kowalski-McGraw et al. 2017].  Some people who use prescription opioids may misuse them and/or develop dependence. Prescription opioid misuse may also lead to heroin use (Cicero et al. 2017].   Recent studies show higher opioid overdose death rates among workers in industries and occupations with high rates of work-related injuries and illnesses. Rates also were higher in occupations with lower availability of paid sick leave and lower job security, suggesting that the need to return to work soon after an injury may contribute to high rates of opioid-related overdose death [MDPH 2018, CDC 2018c]. Lack of paid sick leave and lower job security may also make workers reluctant to take time off to seek treatment.

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Page last reviewed: October 5, 2018