Fire EMS

Firefighter Deaths from Prescription Medications: Two Case Studies

Issue 12 and Volume 161.

By Tommy Baldwin and Tom Hales Firefighters have hazardous jobs—jobs that put them at risk for injury and illness.1-5 Many of these injuries/illnesses involve the musculoskeletal system, (2, 4, 5) whose treatment may involve the short-term prescription of painkilling medications, including narcotics. Typically, these injuries/illnesses resolve before work restrictions are needed. However, in some cases, the pain persists and work restrictions, for the condition or for the prescribed medications, are appropriate. This article highlights the potential dangers of taking pain medications by describing the on-duty deaths of two firefighters whose deaths were ascribed to prescribed narcotics and other painkillers. The article includes guidance on this topic as set forth in National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1582, Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments.6 CASE STUDIES Case #1 involved a 31-year-old male volunteer firefighter who responded to his station during a 911 call for smoke in a basement. After…

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