The statistics in the news about the opioid epidemic are staggering—49,000 overdose deaths in 2017, up from 42,000 in 2016. In 2015, 2 million Americans were addicted to prescription drugs and another 600,000 were addicted to heroin. All this has serious consequences for employers. A recent National Business Group on Health survey of 62 large employers found 60% experienced at least one issue arising from prescription opioid drug misuse or abuse in the workplace, including increased medical or pharmacy costs for chronic opioid users (40%), increased absenteeism or missed work among chronic opioid users (40%) and employees overdosing on prescription opioids (18%).
Behind these numbers are stories of individuals and families who have struggled with this condition. It has touched just about every part of our society. The promising news is that employers are well positioned to take action. There are four areas in which an employer can exert a positive influence:
In addition to these four areas, many employers are working to lessen the stigma attached to substance abuse so that people can come forward and ask for help for themselves or a family member before the disease leads to the most devastating consequences.
Without a doubt, this is a tough issue to deal with at work or in a family. But there are positive steps to take that can make a big difference and literally save lives.