How Employers Can Curb a ‘Hidden Workplace Epidemic,’ Save Money and Boost Productivity

Every day, 60 people die from opioid pain medications in America. That’s22,000 people every year. Opioids are being overprescribed and they’re now the #1 cause of unintentional death in the United States. Not surprisingly, this “hidden epidemic” is impacting businesses. The National Safety Council has recommendations on what employers need to do. It may seem hard to digest at first, but more than 70 percent of American businesses say the use of narcotic painkillers by workers is affecting their businesses. A recent survey by the National Safety Council found seven in ten employers are feeling the direct impact of prescription drug misuse in their workplaces.

The survey, the first of its kind in the nation, also found that although 71 percent of employers agree that prescription drug misuse is a disease that requires treatment, 65 percent feel it is a justifiable reason to fire an employee. “Employers must understand that the most dangerously misused drug today maybe sitting in employees’ medicine cabinets, “SC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hermandad in a statement. “Even when they are taken as prescribed, prescription drugs and opioids can impair workers and create hazards on the job. We hope these findings prompt employers to take the lead on this emerging issue so that workplaces can be as safe as possible.” Drug poisonings, largely from opioid painkillers, now surpass car accidents as the leading cause of preventable death among adults.

Nearly half of Americans are personally impacted by prescription drug addiction, with 44 percent knowing someone who is addicted to a prescription pain reliever. Seven in ten of those struggling with a substance use disorder are in the workforce, revealing hidden epidemic that many employers are struggling to address.

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