Report Identifies Occupations Associated with Drug Overdose Deaths
NIOSH researchers recently examined unintentional and undetermined drug overdose mortality within 26 occupational groups using data from the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance System, or NOMS. According to the NIOSH report, which appears in the Aug. 24 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, construction occupations had the highest proportional mortality ratios for drug overdose deaths and for both heroin-related and prescription opioid-related overdose deaths. The occupations with the highest proportional mortality ratios for natural and semisynthetic opioids were healthcare practitioners and extraction workers, including miners and those working in oil and gas extraction.  “The variation by occupation group in this study leads to speculation about opioid initiation or use and the work environment,” the report reads. “A single on-the-job injury ... or chronic work-related pain ... might result in a prescription for pain medication.” From 2013 through 2015, 52 to 80 percent of injured workers who received pain medications were prescribed opioids, according to workers’ compensation data from 26 states. According to the report’s authors, incorporating workplace research and targeted interventions might benefit the opioid epidemic response. Comprehensive drug-free workplace programs, employee assistance programs, peer-support networks, and education targeted to employees and employers are examples of programs that could address both licit and illicit opioid misuse and abuse. NIOSH’s NOMS program is a federal-state partnership intended to monitor changes in case of death by occupation or industry in the U.S. Participating states share data with NIOSH from their death certificates, including the decedent’s usual industry and occupation.