America’s growing opioid addiction crisis affects all areas of life, including the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates the economic impact of opioid addiction is more than $78.5 billion a year. This estimate includes costs of healthcare; lost productivity; addiction treatment; and the involvement of the criminal justice system.
While the monetary cost is immense, the toll on human lives is more concerning. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that every day an average of 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, a group that forms the core of the workforce.
Addressing the opioid epidemic is a sensitive topic for many employers. They may fear legal ramifications from mishandling an employee suffering from addiction. However, silence or reactive company policies will not yield the changes needed to reverse current trends.
Here are three suggestions to safely and proactively address the opioid crisis with your employees.
1. Educate Employees on the Risks
Misinformation is a major reason the opioid epidemic remains a persistent problem. Many employees continue to associate opioid addiction with illegal narcotics, such as heroin. In 2015, an estimated 591,000 people in the United States suffered from a heroin-use disorder. By comparison, over 2 million people suffered from prescription opioid-related addiction. Communication pieces that effectively educate employees on the dangers of prescription opioids are essential.
2. Empower Employees in Prevention Efforts
Encourage employees to have open conversations with their primary care physician. Employees have a right to question their healthcare provider if he or she prescribes an opioid. They should learn about alternative ways to treat and manage pain. Your company’s prescription drug carrier can provide resources about covered alternate pain medications.
3. Provide a Path to Recovery
For many employees who struggle with addiction, the biggest barrier to recovery is not knowing how to take the first step. Your company can provide this essential resource in the form of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The National Safety Council notes that 70 percent of all U.S. companies provide EAPs. Yet “many employees don’t understand the value or may fear negative ramifications if they seek help.” An EAP connects employees with the best resources for addiction recovery that are aligned with your benefits program.
Your messages can minimize the stigma of addiction and encourage employees to prevent opioid misuse. Then your company will provide a vital contribution to the ongoing struggle against opioid abuse.