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Opioid Overdoses Put Spotlight on Naloxone at Work

With hundreds of fatal opioid overdoses occurring each week across the nation, government health leaders are urging companies and individuals to keep naloxone on hand and learn how to use it in the event a colleague should have an overdose while on the job.

There were 217 overdose deaths at work in 2016, which accounted for 4.2% of occupational injury deaths that year, which was more than double the rate from just three years prior, according to data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Workers in industries that tend to have higher rates of work-related injuries and illnesses have a higher rate of opioid overdose death, as do workers in occupations with lower paid sick leave and lower job security, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Such workers are more likely to obtain opiate prescriptions for injuries that can lead to addiction and abuse, or it can make workers reluctant to seek proper care and take sufficient recovery time for an injury, the CDC report said.

Opioids include natural opiates such as morphine and codeine; semi-synthetic opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone as well as the illegal drug heroin; and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Naloxone, which is also sold under the brand names Narcan and Evzio, is a drug that can reverse or slow the progress of the life-threatening effects of overdose from opioid drugs, which can include sedation, loss of consciousness and difficulty or stopped breathing.

Naloxone can be obtained over the counter at many pharmacies in most states without a prescription, and it comes in nasal sprays and auto-injectors that are easy to administer even when the victim isn’t conscious. It’s important to understand that naloxone doesn’t work on overdoses from other drugs such as cocaine or amphetamines.

Before employers consider a workplace naloxone use program, it is critical that they seek legal advice on important considerations such as:

  • Whether their state allows naloxone to be administered by non-licensed people in the event of an emergency
  • Whether state Good Samaritan laws cover emergency naloxone administration
  • Other liability and legal ramifications
  • Protocols for storing, accessing and administering naloxone, and having good recordkeeping about the program
  • Whether employees are willing to be trained, and willing to administer naloxone
  • Protection for colleagues who may encounter blood, other bodily fluids and needles while caring for the overdosing victim
  • Whether there is evidence of opioid use at the workplace (discarded needles or other drug paraphernalia) that may indicate higher risk of overdose

Hall Booth Smith’s Opioid Task Force can help your company or organization plan and implement an effective and safe workplace naloxone program. You can contact us here.