HR Management & Compliance

Tips for Tackling the Opioid Epidemic in the Workplace

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the job deaths from drug- or alcohol-related causes have grown 25% annually since 2012. That’s a serious concern. Even worse, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that 116 people died every day in 2016 from an opioid overdose, and over 2 million people had an opioid-use disorder.


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Research has now also indicated a striking relationship between the opioid epidemic and workers who leave the workforce and workers who are a part of growing absenteeism and presenteeism problems in the workplace. And while most employers report that they want to and would help employees struggling with addiction, many simply suspend, reprimand, or terminate them.

Understanding the Magnitude of the Epidemic

Before exploring how you can tackle the opioid epidemic head on at your own organization, it’s important to first understand the overarching problem and its magnitude. Consider these statistics:

  • The number of opioid-related overdoses that lead to death inside the workplace is on pace to outnumber the workplace deaths resulting from other causes. (Source)
  • A recent National Safety Council survey found that 29% of employers reported that some of their employees had impaired job performance due to prescription painkiller use, while 15% cited an injury or potential injury that could have occurred at work due to the drugs. And as many as 70% said their workforce had been affected in some way. (Source)
  • The opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy around $504 billion in 2016 alone. (Source)

Continue reading to uncover two ways you can tackle the opioid epidemic in the workplace.

1. Properly Identify an Employee with an Opioid Dependency

If you’re properly able to identify employees with an opioid dependency before they become full-blown addicts, it’ll be a lot easier to provide them with and redirect them toward the resources and care they need before it’s too late. Here are some warning signs that employees might have an opioid dependency:

  • They display erratic mood changes and unexplained behavior.
  • They start to have poor hygiene.
  • They disappear for long stretches of time that’s not easily accounted for.
  • They are tired all the time and have chronic fatigue.
  • They experience frequent accidents or injuries.
  • They have increased rates of absenteeism and presenteeism.
  • They start to have strained relationships with coworkers they once worked well with.

2. Offer Comprehensive Employee Assistance Programs

You may not be able to identify or help every single employee who begins to display a dependence on opioids, but you can offer comprehensive employee assistance programs that employees of all levels can access. Such programs are designed to help employees with personal issues and challenges anonymously.

Design a program that offers substance-abuse counseling, a help hotline that employees can call 24/7, and healthcare benefits that cover mental and addiction disorders, etc. Overall, you’ll want to offer a safe place for employees to go when they experience issues with opioids.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll cover the five additional ways to tackle the opioid epidemic in the workplace.