Odds of Dying from Opioid Overdose Greater than Auto Accident in the U.S.

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The National Safety Council (NSC) – a nonprofit organization with the mission of eliminating preventable deaths at work, home, and on the road – analyzed preventable injury and fatality statistics from 2017 and found that for the first time the lifetime odds of accidentally dying from an opioid overdose are greater than the odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident in the United States, according to an NSC press release.

Odds of Dying from Opioid Overdose

The NSC unveiled the analysis on Injury Facts – the definitive resource for data about unintentional and preventable injuries commonly known as “accidents” –  which revealed that America’s opioid crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl. The lifetime odds were 1 in 96 for dying from an accidental opioid overdose compared to 1 in 103 for dying in a motor vehicle accident in 2017.

Preventable injury-related deaths are at an all-time high in the United States and are the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Overall, there were 169,936 preventable injury-related deaths in 2017 – almost 466 per day – compared to 161,374 such deaths in 2016 and 86,777 such deaths in 1992, a 5.3 percent increase year-over-year and a 96 percent increase over 25 years.

“We’ve made significant strides in overall longevity in the United States, but we are dying from things typically called accidents at rates we haven’t seen in half a century,” NSC statistics manager Ken Kolosh stated in the press release. “We cannot be complacent about 466 lives lost every day. This new analysis reinforces that we must consistently prioritize safety at work, at home, and on the road to prevent these dire outcomes.”

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) – which advances addiction science – defines opioids as including “illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.” NIDA estimates more than 130 Americans die of an opioid overdose every day.

In October 2017, President Donald Trump officially declared “the opioid crisis a national public health emergency under federal law” when he signed a memorandum for “Combatting the National Drug Demand and Opioid Crisis.” Even with President Trump declaring the opioid crisis a national public health emergency, employers may not be detecting the most abused opioids in drug testing programs.

Dawn Standerwick, Vice President of Strategic Growth at Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), was interviewed for the Talent Economy article entitled “What Can Employers Do to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?” and stated that often drug test panels selected by employers may not even test for the most commonly abused substances that include many synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates.

Standerwick explained most drug test programs encompass a standard 5, 9, or 10 panel test which does not include synthetic and semi-synthetic opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and hydromorphone. Standard drug test panels used by most employers only test for naturally occurring opiates codeine and morphine. In order to detect synthetic opiates, an expanded opiates panel must be added.

It should be no surprise that the opioid crisis has reached the American workplace. Data from the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ shows that the positivity rate for four opioids recently added to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) drug test program was notably higher than the rate observed among more traditional opiates in the first quarter of 2018, according to a blog from Quest Diagnostics.

On January 1, 2018, the DOT added four new “semi-synthetic” opioids – hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and oxymorphone – to drug testing panels for DOT regulated industries. Before this change, the only opiates included in the test were codeine, morphine, and 6-acetylmorphine (6-AM). The DOT drug testing panel was expanded due to “prescription opiate drug use and misuse patterns.”

The growing awareness by employers of an opioid crisis in America is an emerging trend in workplace drug testing. In May 2018, ESR News reported drug use by the U.S. workforce remained at its highest level in more than a decade as the positivity rate for drug tests was 4.2 percent in 2017, the same as in 2016 and the highest since 2004, according to an analysis of more than 10 million drug tests.

Opioid Drug Testing Solutions from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – provides a fully integrated and electronic drug testing solution for opioids with access to more than 10,000 collection facilities in the United States to help ensure a safe workplace. To learn more about pre- and post-employment drug testing solutions from ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com/Background-Checks/Drug-Testing/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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