75% of employers say opioid use impacts their workplace

Even though 75 percent of U.S. employers have been directly affected by opioids, only 17 percent feel extremely well prepared to deal with the issue, according to a new survey by the National Safety Council in recognition of Poison Prevention Week. Thirty-eight percent have experienced absenteeism or impaired worker performance, while 31 percent have had an overdose, arrest, a near-miss or an injury in their workplace due to employee opioid use.

For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash, according to NSC calculations. In fact, workplace overdose deaths involving drugs or alcohol have increased by at least 25 percent for five consecutive years.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Employers are more concerned about hiring qualified workers, employee benefits costs and worker compensation costs than they are about employee use of legal prescription opioids or illicit use/sale of opioids. However, opioid misuse – legal or illicit – can impact all other issues employers cited as more concerning.
  • 86 percent of employers believe taking opioids even as prescribed can impair job performance, yet only 60 percent have policies in place requiring employees to notify their employer when they are using a prescription opioid
  • Only half of employers are very confident that they have the appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace
  • 79 percent are not very confident that individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse
  • Encouragingly, 41 percent of employers would return an employee to work after he or she receives treatment for misusing prescription opioids

NSC provides a free Prescription Drug Employer Kit to help employers manage opioid use at work. Based on additional survey results, NSC intends to add components to the kit, including a robust workplace policy.