Earlier this year, Congress passed a two-year budget that included $6 billion to address the opioid epidemic and mental health, $500 million of which went to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address the crisis that is causing an estimated 115 U.S. deaths daily.
According to NIOSH, prescription drug abuse impacts nearly all aspects of society. Workers in all industries or sectors may face unique risks, as injuries sustained at work are increasingly treated with powerful prescription drugs, including opioids such as fentanyl.
Work-related issues associated with increased opioid use include the potential for:
- Work-related injuries to initiate prescription drug (including opioid) use and possibly subsequent misuse; and
- Increases in worker injuries associated with the use of such drugs as contributing or causative factors.
Leaders of the National Institutes of Health published an outline June 12 of how the medical research agency plans to use the $500 million appropriated by Congress to address the opioid crisis.
NIH will focus on improving treatments for opioid abuse and addition as well as supporting pain management strategies, according to an opinion piece published by heads of the agency in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The objectives listed by the NIH include:
- Developing new medications to treat opioid addiction;
- Tinkering with existing medications so they can be taken less often;
- Improving medicines that reverse overdoses;
- Developing new models of caring for people with opioid addiction in the health care and criminal justice systems;
- Determining the best way to care for newborns in opioid withdrawal;
- Discovering and validating new targets for non-addictive pain drugs and devices; and
- Partnering with pharmaceutical companies to accelerate new pain and addiction medications.
The CDC has published a guideline with recommendations for primary care clinicians who are prescribing opioids for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care.