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The Role of Naloxone in Preventing Opioid Overdose Among Arizona Workers and Employers

Naloxone

The opioid epidemic has had a profound impact across the United States, claiming lives, devastating families, and placing a significant burden on communities and the workforce. Arizona has been hit particularly hard by this crisis.In Maricopa county itself the rate of fatal opioid overdose was 22.3 per 100,000. And the Opioid overdose death rate per 100,000 residents is 26.8%. But the impact goes beyond these tragic fatalities – opioid misuse and overdose also take a heavy toll on Arizona’s workforce and employers.

Opioid overdose death rate per 100000 residents

Recognizing the severity of this issue, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has provided guidance for employers on understanding the risk of opioid overdose in the workplace and implementing naloxone programs to save lives. This article will explore the scope of the problem in Arizona, the role of naloxone in reversing overdoses, and steps employers can take to establish workplace naloxone programs.

The Opioid Crisis and Arizona's Workforce

Opioid misuse and overdose have far-reaching impacts on Arizona workers and workplaces. Here are some key statistics that highlight the extent of the issue:

  • Nationally, 75% of U.S. employers reported being directly impacted by opioid misuse in a 2018 survey by the National Safety Council
  • Arizona industries with high injury rates and physically demanding work tend to have higher rates of opioid use and misuse. This includes construction, mining, and manufacturing – all sectors with a significant presence in the state.
  • Opioid overdose deaths in the workplace have increased dramatically in recent years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that workplace overdose deaths from non-medical drug and alcohol use increased by at least 38% annually between 2013 and 2016.

Understanding Naloxone

Narcan Nasal Spray

What is naloxone and how does it work to reverse opioid overdoses? Naloxone is a medication that can quickly block the effects of opioids on the brain and restore breathing in someone experiencing an overdose. It is available in easy-to-use, non-injectable forms such as a nasal spray (Narcan) or auto-injector (Evzio). Key facts about naloxone include:

  • Naloxone only works on opioids, not other drugs. It is not effective in reversing overdoses from benzodiazepines, cocaine, or methamphetamine. 
  • Administering naloxone to someone who is not actually overdosing on opioids is unlikely to cause harm.
  • Naloxone typically starts working within 2-3 minutes. The effects last for 30-90 minutes, so it’s critical to call 911 immediately as the person may fall back into respiratory depression when the naloxone wears off.
  • For some overdoses involving potent opioids like fentanyl, or large quantities of opioids, multiple doses of naloxone may be needed.

While not a substitute for emergency medical care, quickly administering naloxone can be a life-saving first response for a worker experiencing an opioid overdose on the job.

Implementing a Workplace Naloxone Program in Arizona

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers consider providing naloxone in the workplace, particularly in industries at higher risk for occupational injuries and opioid use. If an Arizona employer determines that workers may be at risk of overdose, here are the key steps to establishing a workplace naloxone program:

Develop a Written Policy

  • Establish clear procedures for the naloxone program, including worker training, incident response protocols, and follow-up.

Train Workers

Ensure that designated staff complete a training on recognizing signs of opioid overdose, administering naloxone, and responding to the individual until emergency help arrives. Training should include:

  • Risk factors and symptoms of overdose. 
  • Importance of calling 911 immediately.
  • Proper use of PPE like nitrile gloves.
  • Step-by-step naloxone administration. 
  • First aid measures such as rescue breathing and CPR.
  • Procedures for post-incident reporting and follow-up.

Obtain Naloxone

  • Purchase naloxone from a pharmacy. Arizona allows any individual to obtain the medication without a prescription.
  • Have at least two doses available in case of a severe overdose.

Store Naloxone Properly

  • Keep naloxone in an easily accessible location along with other first aid supplies.
  • Ensure proper storage conditions to maintain the medication’s effectiveness.

Understand Legal Protections

  • Arizona’s Good Samaritan law allows any person to administer naloxone to someone believed to be experiencing an overdose without fear of civil liability in most cases.

Benefits of Workplace Naloxone Programs

Having naloxone on-hand in the workplace, and staff trained to recognize and respond to overdose, offers numerous benefits:

  • Most importantly, it can save the life of a worker suffering an opioid overdose, buying critical time until emergency responders arrive.
  • It helps reduce the stigma and barriers to seeking help for opioid use disorders by demonstrating employer support and prioritization of worker health and safety.
  • There are also financial incentives – each employee lost to an opioid overdose costs an employer $1.4 million on average. Naloxone programs are a small investment to prevent these losses.
  • Naloxone programs are one component of broader workplace drug prevention and response programs that can improve worker wellbeing, productivity, and risk management.

Conclusion

The opioid epidemic’s impact on Arizona’s workforce is undeniable. But there are concrete steps employers can take to prevent overdose deaths and support employees at risk – and naloxone is a critical component. By understanding when naloxone is appropriate, how it works, and best practices for implementing a workplace program, employers can play a pivotal role in saving lives and strengthening their organizations and communities.

While naloxone is not a singular solution, it is a powerful tool that should be available in the event of overdose emergencies in Arizona workplaces. To learn more about developing a customized naloxone program for your workforce, check out the attached PDF. It has all the necessary details so you don’t miss any information. Together, we can stem the tide of opioid overdose and protect Arizona’s lives and livelihoods.

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Nirvana Recovery