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Blog: The Right (and Wrong) Ways to Manage Opioid Risk Exposure

By February 15, 2018July 24th, 2019Blog

The opioid crisis plaguing the country

This article is from Sterling’s Spring 2018 issue of its Risk & Business Magazine. Want a copy? Email Please enjoy and share.

According to the AddictionCenter, the cost of drug abuse to American companies totals at around $81 billion a year. Think about that number. It is absolutely astronomical. In fact, during a recent poll, 70 percent of companies responded saying that they had a hit to their productivity specifically due to opioid abuse in the workplace. It’s a tricky situation for employers because, due to HIPAA laws (and common decency), you can’t simply approach someone in the workplace and bring it up. So where does that leave employers? Where does it leave employees who may have a problem?

Lifting the current behind addiction

Let’s start with the basics. Patients believe, and rightfully so under most circumstances, that if they just follow the instructions they were given and read what is on their pill bottle, they aren’t at risk of addiction. Unfortunately, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Here is an example: An employee falls at work, has to go through physical therapy and have a surgery. They are prescribed an opiate pain killer. The recovery doesn’t go well, so they continue taking the medication, exactly as prescribed, until the prescription runs out. At that point, they begin to go through withdrawals from that medication. They need more pills just to feel normal. These people need help, not to be ostracized.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more than 70 percent of people addicted to or abusing drugs are employed. How could that affect a business? The list is extensive:

  • Mood swings at work
  • Decreased productivity
  • Increased hostility
  • Absenteeism
  • Unexplained lateness

How an employer can help

Employers need to provide resources to their employees to deal with situations like this. They need to educate and erase the stigma about addiction that has been so pervasive in the past. Don’t confront them, simply let them know there is help available if anyone requires it. That help can come by way of a treatment center, prescriptions to deal with withdrawals, or a slew of other solutions.

The fact of the matter is, opioid addiction often begins as simply as hurting yourself and visiting the doctor. Many people who become addicts did nothing more than follow the directions given to them by their doctor and their pharmacist. The issue has become so pervasive that it’s time to begin looking at the hard facts: opioid addiction is a disease and it should be treated as such. We wouldn’t criticize someone with diabetes, we would try to help them. Even if a person initially did something to trigger their issue, the end result and the cost is the same.

Could opioid exposure be affecting your business? Would you know what to do if it was? Are there resources at your disposal to help employees deal with these problems should they arise? These questions are important to ask, but can be overwhelming at times. At Sterling, we are here to help walk you through it. Contact us at today to learn more.