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Truck driver opioid prescriptions top the table

Monash University report highlights impacts of pain killers, anti-depressants


A new Monash University report shows that truck drivers are receiving significantly more pain-killer prescriptions following a work-related injury or illness than other workers in other sectors.

Researchers report that almost one third of drivers who are prescribed opioid medications – strong painkillers – are still using them two and a half years after their injury.

In the frame, amongst other afflictions, are musculoskeletal injuries, occurrences of which the trucking industry is particularly prone.

According to the report, the use of stronger opioids among drivers is associated with longer time off work following injury.

“This report shows that injured drivers are not necessarily receiving care in line with recommended guidelines for medication use,” Dr Ross Iles, from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University, says.

“The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners guidelines suggest that opioid medications should be a short-term option and that long-term use should be uncommon.”

The report also looked at psychotropic – or mood-altering – medication prescriptions, including antidepressants.

Of drivers with a recorded medical prescription, nearly 90 per cent received opioids and about a third prescribed anti-depressants.

More than two thirds of anti-depressant prescriptions were for drivers with musculoskeletal conditions.

“Our previous reports showed that drivers face a high risk of musculoskeletal injuries at work,” Iles says.

“This report suggests mental health should be addressed as part of recovery.

“We need to know more about the parts of the job that can be changed to prevent injury, and how we can speed up recovery when an injury does happen.”

Read how this part of the drivers’ health study was launched, here

According to the, the strength and type of medications being taken has an impact on the time it takes to get back to work, state.

The report finds the median time off work is 126 days for drivers prescribed weak opioid medications, 278 days for those taking strong opioids and 642 days for those taking antidepressants.

This compares to just 23 days for drivers who are not prescribed these types of medication.

“This report further highlights the long-term health risks facing Australian truck drivers who already have an elevated risk of work-related injury,” the researchers say.

The report is the fourth in the Driving Health study, and analysed 44,495 accepted Victorian workers’ compensation claims between July 2004 and June 2013.

However, the findings are limited to injuries and illnesses incurred directly through working conditions and events at work.

The broader study, which aims to get a complete the picture of truck driver health,  has seen Monash and study partners the Centre for Work Health and Safety, Linfox and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) launch Australia’s largest survey of truck driver health.

The Driving Health Survey is now open, with more than 800 drivers already taking part.

The researchers are looking to hear from more drivers, particularly owner drivers, to fully understand how to help drivers be healthy and stay healthy at work.

To learn more or to register interest in the survey, go to


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