Healthcare workers face increased risk for fatal drug overdoses

Aug. 9, 2023
New study.

A study of healthcare workers (HCWs) found that registered nurses, social or behavioral health workers, and healthcare support workers were at increased risk for drug overdose death, suggesting the need to identify and intervene on those at high risk. The findings are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from Columbia University analyzed a prospective cohort of 176,000 HCWs aged 26 years and older between 2008 and 2019. The authors evaluated 6 HCW groups: physicians; registered nurses; other diagnosing and treating healthcare workers; health technicians; healthcare support workers; and social or behavioral health workers. The authors found that 0.07 percent of their study sample died of a drug overdose during the follow-up period. They found that compared with employed adults who were not HCWs, the adjusted hazards of drug overdose deaths were significantly increased for social or behavioral health workers, registered nurses, and healthcare support workers. According to the authors, the high risks for drug overdose among healthcare workers underscore the need for new initiatives to reduce healthcare worker stress, prevent burnout, identify at-risk workers, and, when necessary, accelerate their access to confidential substance use evaluation and treatment.

American College of Physicians release on Newswise

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