What to Know About the Opioid Crisis in the Workplace
In the United States, one of the biggest problems communities face is the growing opioid addiction. Long prescribed to help relieve people from pain experienced due to injuries or illnesses, the drugs have unfortunately been prescribed more often than found to be necessary, resulting in more and more individuals battling addictions to the painkillers. While the addiction crisis has been well-documented in how it has affected families, more and more studies are now focusing on its impact in the workforce. Based on the information that is now becoming available, the impact is significant and very alarming.
According to a recent survey conducted by researchers from The Hartford insurance company, 67% of employers surveyed stated their companies are currently being impacted by opioid use, and 65% stated their companies are being directly impacted financially by the nation’s opioid crisis. Additionally, 76% of workers and 64% of Human Resource professionals surveyed stated they were ill-prepared to help a co-worker who was battling opioid addiction. And when it comes to spotting the signs of opioid addiction, the numbers go even lower. According to the survey results, only 25% of HR professionals and 18% of employees stated they were confident they could spot the signs of opioid addiction, showing there is indeed a gap in today’s workplace regarding how to approach and solve the opioid crisis in the workplace.
In addition to the results of The Hartford survey, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported a disturbing trend involving workplace fatalities associated with drug overdoses. Based on data, the number of fatalities increased from 165 in 2015 to 217 in 2016, an increase of 32 percent. While not all overdoses were attributed to opioids, more and more of the fatalities associated with overdoses were due in part to the individual’s opioid addiction. With this 32% increase occurring within only a one-year span, HR professionals as well as medical researchers feel safe in saying the opioid crisis has indeed invaded the workplace.
As for how workplaces are working to solve this problem, there are many different approaches being taken. Among the most common is providing addiction education to all employees and management staff, which often involves having medical professionals and drug addiction counselors on-site to conduct training classes in how to spot opioid addiction, how to reduce the risk of becoming addicted to opioids, and how those who are battling addictions can seek help for their problem.
In addition to training classes, many employers are also taking the additional step of initiating programs in their companies related to the administration of antidotes to help those who may overdose on opioids while on the job. According to recommendations from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, initiating a naloxone program to help opioid overdose victims can have a significant impact on saving lives. A medication that can halt many of the life-threatening aspects of a drug overdose, such as loss of consciousness and respiratory arrest, naloxone is administered through a person’s nasal passage via use of a syringe. When done properly, the overdose victim can respond almost immediately, allowing time for medical personnel to transport them to a hospital.
For workplaces choosing to implement a naloxone program, a sizable investment in time and money is needed. Not only does the company need to purchase the naloxone overdose kits, but they also must provide in-depth training to staff regarding the proper use of personal protective equipment, naloxone storage, how to administer the drug, and other first aid procedures such as CPR that may need to be used in these situations.
With the opioid crisis continuing to grow in many states across the nation, employers are scrambling to implement programs that can aim at not only helping those who may overdose on the job, but also assist those battling addictions to give them the resources needed to overcome their addictions. In the years ahead, as more and more employers become aware of the opioid problems in the workplace, it is expected additional time and money will be spent in helping to solve this serious problem.