As we told you in January, new data from the National Safety Council (NSC) revealed that the odds of dying from an unintentional opioid overdose are now greater than those of being killed in a motor vehicle accident. Drug poisoning is the leading cause of unintentional death overall in the U.S. The implications of this go beyond the obvious for clinicians who are called upon to treat patients who present with acute pain related to any number of events. Urgent care providers who offer occupational medicine services face an added level of concern, as patients who fail to take prescription pain medications properly run the risk of turning up for work while impaired, raising the risk of poor performance—and, worse, making them more vulnerable for workplace accidents. Noting that use of prescription pain medications “profoundly increase(s) workers’ compensation costs, increase(s) the length of worker disability, and increase(s) work time lost,” the NSC now recommends that workplaces (and, by association, occ med providers), follow specific steps to lower the risk of poor outcomes related to use of opioid medications. Of particular interest to occ med professionals, the NSC recommends educating both workers and supervisors on their inherent risks. While management needs to be aware of classic signs of impairment among workers, and that conversations between employees and clinicians are confidential by law, patients must understand why it’s important to take all medications as prescribed and the potential consequences of misusing opioids. The NSC also suggests that some employers may want to consider implementing drug-testing—another service that occ med providers might be able to offer.

National Safety Council Stresses the Importance of Workplace Education on Opioids
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