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Broadcasts and the internet are replete with information regarding opioids and the devasting effect it is having on families and communities.  It is possible the employers have not thought about any role they have in assisting all of us to minimize their use.  Some statistics that frame the problem are:

  • In 2016 more than 50,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose
  • In 2016 there were 38,000 deaths by gun violence
  • 58,220 US soldiers died in the entire Vietnam War

Employers may lament this loss of life but not think it has anything to do with them.  But the safety implications of this condition are unescapable.  Overdoes from the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol on the job increased 32% during 2016.  Much of that was directly attributable to opioids.  The use of opioids abuse is estimated to cost US employers more than $18 billion a year in lost productivity and medical expenses.  And a surprise static, is that employers’ medical insurance pays for one-third of the prescriptions that are being abused through their health insurance and workers’ compensation benefits.

Suggestions about how employers can help reduce this devastating problem, if they prescreen, include:

  • Go back and review your Drug and Alcohol policy to see if it can provide more information so applicants and employees understand the level of concern that their employer has regarding this subject.
  • Post in a prominent place and on all website postings for job openings that drug testing is a step in all hiring processes.
  • Provide training to all supervisors and managers about the signs of drug and alcohol use.
  • Have a plan to assist any employee suffering from substance abuse and promote that information on a regular basis. It is also helpful to provide similar assistance to the spouse or domestic partner if s/he is having a problem.  Assisting others in the family unit can be a great way to promote wellness and assist employees dealing with a serious situation at home.
  • Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be one of the ways the employer signals their intent regarding proving employee assistance.

The magnitude of this issue requires that everyone participate in resolving it.  Employers have more leverage than most, simply because of the importance of employment.  So, it is critical that employers use it for the good it can do for the individual and our collective.

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