Educating Employees on the Risks of Prescription Painkillers
The costs of prescription opioid misuse to employers are as great as $18 billion per year.
Knowledge is power. It’s a trite but true slogan, and especially applicable to the prescription painkiller epidemic. Millions of Americans have inadvertently walked into opioid dependencies and addictions via legal prescriptions because they were unaware of the risks or ill-prepared to handle them.
A study from Castlight Health based on anonymous health data from 1 million people estimates that the costs of prescription opioid misuse to employers are as great as $18 billion per year. $8 billion of that is medically-related costs. The other $10 billion is tied to productivity issues like absenteeism. Of course, the biggest tragedy of the issue is the devastation it causes to the people suffering with addiction and dependency, and their loved ones.
Addressing this widespread problem is an essential part of upholding a commitment to a safe and healthy workplace and workforce. While many of the contributing factors to the opioid crisis are outside of employers’ control, there are some relatively simple measures that can go a long way in protecting employees.
One particularly low hanging fruit: educational campaigns. Instilling awareness and providing information ahead of time empowers people to make more informed choices regarding their healthcare.
Educate your employees about opioids. Here’s what they need to know:
The basics of the opioid epidemic and how individuals can develop problems with misuse, dependency, and addiction.
How to discuss concerns with providers who prescribe or recommend opioids. They should also know where to find information, such as job descriptions, to share with medical providers.
The effects of painkillers on safety-sensitive tasks, driving, and other activities.
Laws pertaining to prescription drug use and misuse at work.
The importance of safe med storage, disposal of medication, and not sharing with others.
How to access confidential resources for help, for dependency or addiction, and how to refer people to help. For example, if you have an EAP, how to access it.
Official company prescription drug policy and how it is monitored and enforced.
Educating employees about opioids is just the start. A workplace with a focus on substance wellness and other wellbeing benefits, as well as clear and confidential access to evidence-based resources, is vital to also assist those who may be struggling.