The opioid crisis can harm our workplaces as well as our families and communities. According to the latest data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 2.1 million Americans struggle with an opioid use disorder for either prescription pain relievers or heroin. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control estimated that the total annual economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion, which includes increased healthcare costs, substance abuse treatment, lost productivity, and criminal justice.
Many conversations focus on prescribing guidelines, overdose rates, access to treatment, identifying risk factors, and overcoming the stigma of addiction. However, our goal is to bring greater awareness to employers about the impacts of opioids on the workforce. Regardless of the size of your company, there are strategies that can make a difference.
- Refine your return-to-work policies for employees taking impairing medications
- Train supervisors on how to recognize warning signs of someone abusing opioids
- Allow for voluntary disclosure of substance abuse and ensure confidentiality
- Add opioids to your workplace drug testing program
- Reduce the stigma of drug addiction and treatment though continued education
- Inform workers about second chance and employee assistance programs (EAP) offered by your company
- Support peer prevention programs where volunteers can support co-workers recovering from addiction
Despite the resources dedicated to help those struggling with opioid misuse, the epidemic is far from over. Embrace your role to create a safe, drug-free work environment with a clear substance abuse policy and programming that educates employees about the dangers of opioids misuse.
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By Nicole Jupe
January 10, 2019