CDC Data Show Overdose Deaths Reach New High During Pandemic

NSC resources to identify and combat drug misuse and impairment in the workplace will save lives.

November 18, 2021

ITASCA, IL - According to new provisional data from the CDC, drug overdose deaths between April 2020 and April 2021 topped 100,000, marking a record number of lives claimed in a 12-month period. While the National Safety Council (NSC) is grieving the loss of so many lives, NSC is also dedicated to turning this aggressive wake-up call into motivation for employers to use every resource available to keep workers healthy and safe. 

“For years, the United States has accepted drug overdoses as a tragic but unavoidable reality,” said Jenny Burke, NSC senior director, impairment practice. “We know what to do to save lives, but as a nation, we have not consistently prioritized eliminating these deaths. We must all do our part if we are to reverse this deadly trend, and that includes all members of our communities, with a special call on employers.”

The employers’ role is a universal gap NSC identified. Seventy-five percent of employers have been directly impacted by employee opioid misuse, according to NSC surveys. Only 17% feel very confident that they can address the problem effectively. In response, NSC developed several resources including an employer toolkit and a one-hour eLearning course to equip supervisors and safety professionals with the ability to recognize and respond to perceived impairment in the workplace. This training covers: 

  • The importance of recognizing and responding to impairment
  • Supervisor responsibilities when recognizing impairment
  • Common causes of impairment (alcohol, cannabis, fatigue, mental distress and more)
  • Common signs and symptoms of impairment
  • The NSC original six steps to respond to potential impairment
  • Other considerations, including:
    Human Resources involvement
    Laws and regulations

In 2020, in collaboration with more than 60 organizations and companies, NSC also released a comprehensive National Plan to Address Opioid Misuse. The plan’s unique recommendations take into account the many factors, systems and players that have a role in the lifecycle of addiction – from prevention to recovery, from education to the criminal justice system, from prescribers to employers. 

When the U.S. is losing an average of 235 lives a day to a drug overdose, action must be taken to save lives. NSC implores employers to work with us to seek training and implement programs to identify and combat opioid misuse and impairment in the workplace.

For more information about how to address impairment in the workplace, visit nsc.org/impairmenttraining

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is America’s leading nonprofit safety advocate – and has been for over 100 years. As a mission-based organization, we work to eliminate the leading causes of preventable death and injury, focusing our efforts on the workplace, roadway and impairment. We create a culture of safety to not only keep people safer at work, but also beyond the workplace so they can live their fullest lives.

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