Opioid Epidemic

Marijuana gets lots of attention in the news and in the business community, but other illegal and legal substances are exacting an enormous toll on the American workforce. Prescription drug and opioid abuse has been rising across the country for years and the most recent statistics are terrifying:

  • 33,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2015; 50,000 are predicted to die in 2017 (legally obtained opioids account for almost 50% of these deaths)
  • $12 BILLION cost to employers
  • 10-12% of the workforce is under the influence of drugs
  • 70% of U.S. workplaces are impacted
  • Drug overdose is the primary cause of “injury death” among adults

Opioid abuse is very challenging as it can be a legally obtained pain killer, and is often not included in workplace drug screening protocols. Workplaces, especially those that serve the general public, may consider steps to handle overdoses in their workplace; this has been the case in public libraries where patrons have overdosed and required emergency assistance. Other workplace interventions may include:

  • Drug testing protocols may be reviewed and revised to include levels of legal opiates/ opioids.
  • EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) are a useful benefit to offer employees who need help with their own health issues or those within their family.
  • Training employees and especially managers on the signs of abuse, overdose and possibly the proper use of Naloxone/Narcan. (Note: Good Samaritan laws permitting use by non-medical personnel vary by state, so consult legal advice.)

Since 44% of Americans know someone with a prescription drug addiction, this is likely impacting your employees and workplace. How will you respond?

Employer resource

Resources for employees


NCSL review of Good Samaritan Laws: http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/drug-overdose-immunity-good-samaritan-laws.aspx

CDC stats by state: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html

CDC Nat’l stats: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/index.html

Nat’l Safety Council http://www.nsc.org/Connect/NSCNewsReleases/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=182