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Help Minimize Opioid Abuse

Unintentional poisonings, such as drug overdoses, are the single largest cause of unintentional deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationwide overdose deaths, driven primarily by the opioid epidemic, have risen drastically in recent years, and added up to 105,452 in 2022.

While some opioids are illegal, like heroin and fentanyl, others are prescription drugs. Doctors may prescribe opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and oxymorphone, for the kinds of injuries typical to workers’ compensation cases to reduce pain. The most common injuries that lead to opioid prescriptions are back, shoulder and knee injuries. 

Patients who use prescribed opioids might eventually develop an opioid use disorder, misusing the prescription by taking the medication longer than necessary — a behavior pattern that worsens the danger of overdoses. 

As the issues involved with opioids have become increasingly well-understood, the CDC has established new recommendations for prescribers — for example, prescription amounts should be limited, and evaluations for side-effect risks should be periodically conducted in cases where opioids are treating chronic pain.

105,452 overdose deaths were recorded in the U.S. in 2022, 
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

There are steps that employers can take to promote awareness of opioid issues:

Educate employees on the risks of opioid use. 

Employers can use the website of the National Safety Council to request its “Opioids at Work” toolkit. It offers sample drug-related policies, fact sheets, presentations, posters and other materials. 

Recognize signs of opioid impairment. 

Some of the signs of impairment are behavioral in nature — unexplained periods of absence, declines in work performance or growing isolation. Others are physical changes — weight fluctuations, slowed reflexes or declined motor coordination. 

Obtain and add naloxone to first aid kits, and train employees how to administer naloxone. 

Naloxone is a medication delivered either as a nasal spray or injectable, which can reverse an opioid overdose and potentially save a life  when it is administered in time. In addition to maintaining it for employees suffering an overdose emergency, it is often carried by police officers and fire departments to help save the lives of those they encounter suffering from an overdose. 

The SC Department of Health and Environmental Control developed the Law Enforcement Officer Naloxone, or LEON, program to train and equip officers for naloxone administration, as well as the Reducing Opioid Loss of Life, or ROLL, program for firefighters. Also, members of the SC Municipal Insurance Trust can use the SCMIT fire service and law enforcement officer safety grants. Members can learn more about SCMIT.