Could Opioid Education Be On Its Way To Your Workplace?
Last year, there were more deaths resulting from drug overdose than from guns and car accidents combined; studies attribute over two-thirds of those to opioids.
With employee opioid addiction costing American businesses nearly $2.6 billion in 2018, it’s no surprise it’s being suggested that Maryland employers begin to implement opioid education right in the workplace.
The opioid crisis, also referred to as the opioid epidemic, refers in part to the drastic rise in opioid pain relief prescriptions given to Americans since the 1990s. Over the period since, opioid prescriptions have more than quadrupled, and admissions to treatment centers for opioid addiction has increased at least 700%. Opioid medications are highly effective in treating pain relief, but are also highly addictive.
Some prescription users take opioid prescription drugs long-term to avoid pain, or continue taking them after their pain lessens. Eventually, once doctors no longer prescribe the medication, some patients turn to less expensive opioids like heroin to replace the prescriptions they no longer have access to. Continued addiction can have long-lasting health effects and impact employee performance at work.
What Impacts Does Opioid Addiction Have In The Workplace?
Most people who are addicted to substances of various types want to keep their jobs and nearly 75% do so. As mentioned, employee addiction can negatively affect businesses in multiple ways:
Lost productivity. Employees suffering from addiction report decreased productivity themselves, and their employers notice. As a result of lost productivity, businesses stand to lose revenue.
Decreased quality of work. Both employees and employers report a decrease in the quality of work performed by those suffering from addiction.
Increase use of sick time. Employees may request more sick leave as the result of addiction or drug rehab.
Decreased attendance. Employees with substance addiction are more likely to call in sick or otherwise fail to appear at work, costing employers time and money to make up for lost labor.
Increased accidents, injury, and fatalities. Addicted employees are more likely to cause or become injured by accidents while at work, leading to additional medical costs for the employer.
Higher turnover. As a result of lost productivity, poor performance and missed work, employees may be fired, or decide to stop working altogether. The business is then required to find a replacement.
Employers Are Urged To Provide Opioid Education
Due to the negative impacts, many businesses have sought to provide addiction education in the workplace. With the current opioid crisis, experts are beginning to urge employers to make this education focus on opioids. Could this education be coming to your workplace or workplaces you know?
Maryland lawmakers cite an opioid-related death rate of somewhere over 2,000 patients per year. They have stressed employer involvement in combating opioid addiction in the first place, as well as providing rehab after work or similar programs for already-addicted workers. The Greater Baltimore Committee recommends employers take the following steps:
Provide general education. Some workers may not be aware that the medication they’re taking is actually an opioid.
Post a policy. All workplaces should have a clearly written, readily available opioid and prescription drug policy.
Limit prescriptions. Businesses should limit the number of opioid prescriptions allowed under corporate insurance to discourage addiction
Provide prescription care education. Workers should inform other workers about proper ways to take, store and dispose of medications to prevent abuse.
Train leaders. Companies should train managers and supervisors to recognize signs of abuse in employees, as well as to aid employees in seeking treatment for addiction.
What Would An Education Program Look Like?
Many experts recommend instituting Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, to aid employees in receiving outside help for multiple issues, including drug addiction. Generally, employees can call a phone number to confidentially self-report addiction, which will link them to outside resources for counseling, treatment, and more. The employer is financially responsible for this service, so many are choosing to institute workplace programs as well.
Education programs often consist of large group meetings warning employees about the addictive properties of opioids, and the how to seek non-opioid alternatives. The meetings outline the impacts of traveling to work while affected by opioids as well as the potential increase in workplace accidents. Then, they discuss information regarding workplace effectiveness followed by the official workplace policy on opioid abuse.
Team awareness or small group sessions based on prevention and awareness are also a good idea to encourage support in the workplace. As a result, more addicted employees may choose to seek treatment. Still others may avoid addiction in the first place.
Could Your Workplace Adopt An Opioid Education Program?
The final decision on whether or not to begin a workplace program remains at your employer’s discretion. Fortunately, studies have found such programs relatively effective. If you are experiencing or have noticed in others a decrease in productivity or performance due to a possible opioid issue, you may want to speak with your employer regarding potential education in your workplace. You and your workplace could be safer, more effective, and happier as a result.
Dr. Bhalavat is Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, and provides inpatient evaluation and consultation services at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, Maryland Recovery Partners, and Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Bhalavat’s background includes treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, substance abuse and dementia.
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