Writing in Wall Street Journal, Harriet Torry alerts us that the number of U.S. deaths at work from unintentional drug and alcohol overdoses jumped more than 30% in 2016. America’s struggle with the deadly opioid epidemic is now common to the workplace.
Torry highlights the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries that recorded 217 worker deaths on the job last year as a result of an unintentional overdose from the nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol. These tragic deaths are up from 165 in 2015. The number of accidental overdose deaths at work has nearly tripled since the BLS began compiling the data in 2011. Drug overdose deaths surpassed 64,000 last year, according to the CDC.
Drug abuse is also taking a toll on the U.S. economy. The burden of prescription opioid abuse from crime, lost work productivity through absenteeism or poor job performance and health care costs an estimated $78.5 billion a year.
I pioneered a critical program at the Workers Compensation Administration in 2010 to assist injured workers. Many were receiving opioid prescription drugs to manage their pain. My research suggested patients could be shifted to medical cannabis rather than relying on prescription opioid use for chronic pain patients. Clinical studies now show a distinct connection between having the legal ability to use cannabis and significant reductions in opioid use.
Unfortunately, my bureau chief, Richard Adu-Asamoah, and agency deputy director, Thomas Dow, denied my requests for additional training. People die in America due to the petty games of privileged and powerful managers.
More about this history at MeToo: Glenn R. Smith Conspiracy