Opioid use disorder considerations for employers

Opioid use, misuse, and overdose are serious health problems in the United States, and the impact on employers cannot be ignored. According to a 2017 report from the National Safety Council, 10% to 12% of employees are under the influence of drugs while at work, and 70% of employers reported negative effects from opioid use within their employee population.

Opioid use and abuse among workers has several significant effects on U.S. employers, including reduced economic growth, increased operating costs, lower quality, and decreased productivity. Anecdotal reports in the United States indicate that employers are not only having difficulty finding skilled workers, but also workers who have the necessary skills and can pass a drug test.

Less than 20% of human resources staff say they are well prepared to deal with the personnel issues related to opioid use and misuse. This readiness gap is driven by the absence of appropriate policies, insurance, and benefits structured to address addiction, by the lack of processes to support workers in recovery, and by missing procedures to support managers and supervisors as they address opioid-related job performance issues.

How can employers prepare for and address this challenge? Employer involvement with staff opioid use covers new ground, requiring the thoughtful development of programs and areas of emphasis.

In this article, Milliman’s Barbara Culley and Christine Castle present an overview of the challenges facing employers, discuss opioid use and misuse effects in the workplace, review data to inform program development, and explore actions employers can take to tackle this growing program.

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