Employers Feel the Impact of the Opioid Epidemic

91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. It’s a growing epidemic that no one can ignore—including employers. Of individuals misusing pain relievers, about two-thirds are currently employed, making opioid abuse a problem in workplaces all across the country.

Employers Feel the Impact of the Opioid Epidemic

An International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans report released earlier this year, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits, found that many employers are combating prescription drug abuse among their employees by taking steps such as:

  • Requiring prior authorization of outpatient opioid prescriptions in excess of a specific number of days (43%)Opioid Epidemic - Is Your Workplace Prepared
  • Providing alternative pain management treatments (17%)
  • Offering a fraud tip hotline (8%)
  • Requiring written permission from a health care provider before a prescription is switched from an abuse-deterrent drug to one that is not (5%)
  • Monitoring hospital discharges to look for drug abuse events (5%).

Additionally, one in four employers has conducted a prescription drug claims analysis to identify possible abuse, and another quarter are considering a claims analysis.

Addiction has long been a tough problem for employers to tackle. Employees who are struggling with substance abuse often do so in secret and may fear that admitting they need help will cost them their job.

However, the International Foundation report found that more than nine in ten employers have measures in place to support workers who are dealing with substance abuse or mental health issues. These organizations typically cover outpatient, in-person treatment sessions and inpatient hospital or clinic treatment. Other commonly provided options include prescription drug therapies, inpatient residential treatment centers, outpatient telemedicine treatment services and referrals to community services.

Many employers also provide support through employee assistance programs (EAPs) and wellness programs that include a substance abuse component.

Substance abuse is costly for employers—Reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and disability claims, and increased prescription drug and medical expenses can add up to have a significant impact on the bottom line. Taking measures to prevent and treat substance abuse is not only beneficial to the organization but could be life saving for employees and their families.

Learn how you can minimize the impact of the opioid epidemic in your workplace: Register to attend the November 9 virtual conference webcast: The Opioid Epidemic . . . Is Your Workplace Prepared?

Brenda Hofmann
Senior Communications Associate at the International Foundation