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October 13, 2023

Construction, restaurant workers most likely to die from drug overdose, new CDC data finds

In a first-of-its-kind look at the link between drug overdose deaths and certain occupations, new CDC data shows that 1 out of every 5 people who died of an overdose in 2020 usually worked in construction or restaurants (Source: “The depressing relationship between your job and your odds of drug overdose,” Washington Post, Oct. 6).

According to the new CDC National Vital Statistics report, overdoses killed 163 of every 100,000 people who usually worked in construction and extraction in 2020, whether they were on the job or not, making it by far the most dangerous major occupation, drug-wise. Restaurant jobs were second at 118 deaths per 100,000, according to new data.

This is the first time the CDC has published such comprehensive and detailed numbers linking jobs and overdoses, which the authors separately wrote was made possible by “funeral directors across the country who take time to speak with decedents’ loved ones and record [industry and occupation] on the death certificate.”

The report found that the safest jobs in the country, in terms of likelihood of overdose deaths were education and computer work, where 6 and 9 people per 100,000 died, respectively.

“Occupations with the largest rates of overdoses are also generally ones that require a lot of physical mobility/strength,” University of Southern California health economist Rosalie Liccardo Pacula told the Washington Post. “Many workers in these positions develop chronic pain conditions. Chronic pain is the leading reason why people use opioids long-term, and those with long-term use are now facing greater hurdles maintaining access to their opioid prescriptions in light of changing medical recommendations … so they may be more likely to turn to the illegal market.”