Organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the prevalence of opioid abuse and are taking action. According to International Foundation research, about one in three organizations (32.3%) states that prescription drug addiction is prevalent in their organization. Similarly, two in three responding organizations (67.8%) have cited an increased prevalence in mental health/substance abuse challenges compared to five years ago.

The International Foundation Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits: 2016 Survey Results revealed the most prevalent types of mental health coverage and treatment options offered, conditions present in the workplace population, types of analyses conducted and workforce impact. As part of our analysis, we asked about prescription drug abuse in their organizations. Here are highlights from the findings.

Employers Take Actions to Combat Opioid Abuse
Survey results provide insights from a total of 344 respondents and were received from corporate, public sector and multiemployer plan respondents across the United States and Canada. As a whole, 74% of responding organizations cover conditions associated with prescription drug addiction. Over one in five responding organizations (22.4%) have conducted a prescription drug claims analysis, with an additional 20.6% considering conducting an analysis in the future. This practice is most commonly noted from multiemployer plan respondents.

[Related: Overview of Prescription Drugs Online Learning Course]

Types of Benefits Offered for Substance Abuse Issues

Organizations are offering a number of benefits that address substance abuse specifically.

  • Over four in five (81.9%) organizations offer outpatient in-person treatment sessions.
  • 71.1% offer inpatient hospital/clinical treatments.
  • Over three in five (61.6%) responding organizations offer prescription drug therapies, while a similar amount (58.7%) offer access to inpatient residential treatment centers.
  • Over one-half of responding organizations (50.8%) offer outpatient treatment sessions with a medical professional or therapist via text, e-mail, telephone or mobile application.

[Free Member Webcast: The Opioid Abuse Epidemic and Your Benefit Plan]

Methods to Combat Opioid Abuse

Going further, U.S. respondents were asked about the methods their organizations have implemented to combat opioid drug abuse. The most commonly implemented method is prior authorization for outpatient opioid prescription in excess of a specified number of days, cited by 42.9% of respondents. Over one in six (17.4%) utilize alternative pain management treatments in their plans. Fraud tip hotlines are used by 8.1% of respondents and allow workers to anonymously report signs of opioid abuse in the workplace. One in twenty (4.9%) responding U.S. organizations require written permission from a health care provider before a prescription is switched from an abuse-deterrent drug to one that is not. A similar number of respondents (4.5%) monitor hospital discharges to look for prior drug abuse events. About one in three (31.2%) of respondents does not have methods in place to combat opioid abuse.

View the report Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits: 2016 Survey Results at

Justin Held, CEBS
Senior Research Analyst/Educational Program Specialist at the International Foundation

Justin Held, CEBS

Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation

Favorite Foundation service: Research Surveys

Benefits related topics that interests him most: Health care economics, the Affordable Care Act, apprenticeship training

Favorite Foundation Conference Event: Lowell Catlett’s economic updates

Personal Insight: Justin loves everything baseball, visiting and checking off ballparks as he travels. He can shake any bad mood caused by a Brewers’ loss by going for a good long run.

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