HealthDay News — Specific health care workers have an increased risk for drug overdose death, according to a study published online Aug. 8 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Mark Olfson, M.D., M.P.H., from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, and colleagues conducted a prospective cohort study involving 176,000 health care workers and 1,662,000 non-health care workers aged 26 years or older surveyed in 2008 and followed through 2019 for cause of death. Drug overdose deaths were determined for physicians, registered nurses, other treating or diagnosing health care workers, health technicians, health care support workers, and social or behavioral health workers and non-health care workers.
The researchers found that during follow-up, about 0.07 percent of the study sample died of a drug overdose. The annual standardized rates of drug overdose death per 100,000 persons ranged from 2.3 to 15.5 for physicians and social or behavioral health workers, respectively, among health care workers. The adjusted hazards of total drug overdose deaths were significantly increased for social or behavioral health workers, registered nurses, and health care support workers, but not for physicians, other treating or diagnosing health care workers, or health technicians compared with those for non-health care workers. For opioid-related overdose deaths and unintentional overdose deaths, the results were generally similar.
“Our study suggests that certain groups of health care workers, specifically registered nurses, social or behavioral health workers, and health care support workers, are at increased risk for drug overdose death, indicating the need to identify and intervene on those at high risk,” the authors write.