Central nervous system agents and the risk of workplace injury and death: a systematic review

Reasons for the study

Prescription drugs that act on the central nervous system (CNS)—e.g. opioids, benzodiazepines, stimulants—are associated with various adverse effects, including cognitive and psychomotor impairments. Their non-medical use is considered a public health risk for serious harms. Use of medical cannabis has also seen tremendous growth in recent years, and the Canadian government has committed to legalization of non-medical cannabis in 2018. There is a need to balance the therapeutic benefits of these drugs and a worker’s personal autonomy against their potential workplace risks. Given current trends, this will remain a challenge for clinicians, employees, employers and workers’ compensation systems for the indefinite future. This systematic review will consider some of the most deleterious potential workplace outcomes of these agents: workplace injury and fatality.

Objectives of the study

  • To ascertain the level and quality of evidence for an association between select CNS agents and the risk of workplace injury, reinjury, near misses and death, including outcomes affecting co-workers and others in the immediate workplace environment
  • To examine whether certain factors modify the relationship, including exposure characteristics, industry/occupation and demographics

Target audience

Findings may inform workplace policies around the use of these drugs in the workplace and will be important for prescribers and the development of prescribing guidelines. Results may inform the discourse among policy-makers around prescribing standards and regulations pertaining to non-medical cannabis in the workplace. Results may also raise awareness among workers of any potential workplace hazards associated with these drugs.

Related interviews and articles

Project status

Completed 2019

Research team

  • Nancy Carnide, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Andrea Furlan, Institute for Work & Health (PI)
  • Kim Cullen, Institute for Work & Health
  • Emma Irvin, Institute for Work & Health
  • Quenby Mahood, Institute for Work & Health
  • Christopher McLeod, Institute for Work & Health
  • Dwayne Van Eerd, Institute for Work & Health
  • Paul Farnan, HealthQuest Occupational Health Services
  • Gary Franklin, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
  • Launette Rieb, Orchard Recovery Centre
  • Peter Rothfels, WorkSafeBC

Collaborators and partners

  • WorkSafeBC
  • Pain BC Society

Funded by