The opi­oid cri­sis has dri­ven over­dose deaths in Amer­i­ca to all-time highs. By 2017, the opi­oid mor­tal­i­ty rate was five times high­er than the rate in 1999. This cri­sis is not lim­it­ed to one socio-eco­nom­ic class or one geo­graph­ic area. Opi­oid addic­tion affects those in sub­ur­ban homes, high-rise office build­ings, and schools in every state in Amer­i­ca.  Employ­ers must address this epi­dem­ic in their work­place through edu­ca­tion and ser­vices for employ­ees, so that the tide of this cri­sis can recede, and their work­force can march ahead unde­terred by addiction.

Opioid Addiction Explained

Opi­oid addic­tion most often results from the mis­use of and addic­tion to pre­scrip­tion pain med­ica­tion. It has become an epi­dem­ic that affects not only the patient, with impli­ca­tions in the work­place, as well. Many patients who are pre­scribed opi­oids for chron­ic pain don’t believe they will become addict­ed to them. But, with pro­longed use, their need for more med­ica­tion to achieve the same lev­el of pain-relief increas­es, as does their depen­dence on these drugs.

Education Is Key

Edu­cat­ing your employ­ees on how opi­oid addic­tion hap­pens and what can be done to over­come it is essen­tial in the work­place. The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion have many resources to help you with edu­ca­tion that you can post around your office and work­place. Their web­site is also a great resource on edu­cat­ing the employ­er on what opi­oid mis­use looks like and how to address it with your employees.

Resources for Employees

With an esti­mat­ed 1.7 mil­lion Amer­i­cans addict­ed to opi­oids, you can be assured you will encounter some­one in your work­place who has been affect­ed by this cri­sis. How can you help your employ­ees to over­come this addic­tion? Your company’s Employ­ee Assis­tance Pro­gram (EAP) is a won­der­ful resource to offer. Each EAP will be dif­fer­ent based on the ser­vice to which your com­pa­ny has sub­scribed. Accord­ing to a recent sur­vey, 91% of work orga­ni­za­tions offer some type of EAPs for their employ­ees. Most EAPs offer assis­tance in match­ing employ­ees to local treat­ment resources, as well as short-term coun­sel­ing and support/recovery groups. Also, EAP pro­fes­sion­als are knowl­edge­able on treat­ment options and sug­gest­ed ways to inter­vene when abuse is suspected.

The opi­oid cri­sis is real—now, more Amer­i­cans are like­ly to die from an opi­oid over­dose than an auto­mo­bile acci­dent. This epi­dem­ic has sieged neigh­bors, co-work­ers, and fam­i­ly. The work­place is feel­ing this cri­sis through low­ered pro­duc­tiv­i­ty of employ­ees as well as increased health­care costs. In fact, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion esti­mates that the total “eco­nom­ic bur­den” of pre­scrip­tion opi­oid mis­use alone in the Unit­ed States is $78.5 bil­lion a year, includ­ing the costs of health­care, lost pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, addic­tion treat­ment, and crim­i­nal jus­tice involve­ment. As an employ­er, you have the abil­i­ty to help turn the tide of this addic­tion cri­sis by offer­ing edu­ca­tion and employ­ee assis­tance pro­grams for your work­force. The right resources can help your work­force become edu­cat­ed on and over­come this addiction.