US

Transportation Workers Will Now Face Drug Testing For Painkillers

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Transportation workers with jobs posing a safety risk will soon be drug tested for painkillers in an effort to mitigate the deadly effects of the opioid epidemic.

Officials from the Department of Transportation announced the new screening rule Monday, that will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. The rule adds hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and oxycodone to the list if substances U.S. transportation workers are tested for, affecting air traffic controllers, flight crews, truck drivers, train engineers and others is safety-sensitive positions, reports CNBC.

Drugs screenings for these workers previously only looked for marijuana and cocaine, but the opioid epidemic is forcing officials to expand their scope.

“The opioid crisis is a threat to public safety when it involves safety-sensitive employees involved in the operation of any kind of vehicle or transport,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in statement Monday. “The ability to test for a broader range of opioids will advance transportation safety significantly and provide another deterrence to opioid abuse, which will better protect the public and ultimately save lives.”

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.

The National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released its first preliminary report in August giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016.  Drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, with 64,070 Americans suffering a fatal overdose that year, driven primarily by fentanyl, the CDC estimates.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

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