March 5, 2020

NIOSH to Develop Resources on Recovery from Substance Misuse

NIOSH seeks input on its plan to develop resources and conduct research on workplace-supported recovery programs, or WSRPs, which are intended to assist workers and employers facing the nation’s drug crisis in their communities. According to NIOSH, WSRPs involve the use of evidence-based policies and programs to reduce risk factors associated with a worker beginning substance misuse and the progression to a substance use disorder. WSRPs also help employers support workers who are in recovery to stay at work or return to work. These programs could include efforts such as promoting the use of alternatives to opioids for pain relief associated with a workplace injury or illness; developing return-to-work plans for employees after medical treatment; and offering peer support groups. NIOSH’s efforts in this area are part of the agency’s larger goal of using Total Worker Health principles to help workers and employers who are affected by opioid and substance use disorder epidemics in the United States.

“The effects of substance use and misuse are not isolated to work or home environments, and the potential for developing a substance use disorder may be preceded by injuries that happen in the workplace,” NIOSH stresses in its request for information. “Regardless of the circumstances that may have led to substance misuse, employment is a key goal among individuals in recovery.”

NIOSH stresses that work provides those in recovery in particular a sense of purpose as well as social networks that offer support and friendship.

The agency seeks feedback on the topic of workplace-supported recovery from employers, labor unions, workers, researchers, treatment providers, and government agencies at all levels. A list of targeted questions is available in the Federal Register. Stakeholders have until April 27, 2020 to submit comments.

More information on opioids in the workplace is available on NIOSH’s website.

Related: An article in the May 2019 issue of The Synergist discussed whether ergonomics programs can help solve the opioid crisis. Two other Synergist articles have addressed occupational exposures to illicit drugs, including “The Opioid Abuse Epidemic” in the November 2017 issue and “Protection in an Uncontrolled Environment” in the December 2017 issue. An exchange of letters about these articles appeared in the March 2018 issue.