- A new The Hartford survey of 2,000 workers and 500 HR leaders and workers in the U.S. found that most lack the knowledge and resources to overcome the opioid epidemic and its toll on the workplace. Sixty-seven percent of HR professionals said their organizations are impacted by the opioid crisis or will be eventually, and 65% said the epidemic is having a financial impact on their companies.
- The poll also found a large majority of employees (76%) and most HR professionals (64%) don't feel they're well-trained to help their opioid-addicted colleagues. Just 24% of HR professionals and 18% of employees in the survey felt "very" or "extremely" confident that they could recognize the signs of opioid addiction, and only 19% of HR professionals and employees felt "very" or "extremely" aware of how to minimize the risk of addiction.
- Since 2015, the The Hartford said it decreased opioid use among its insured workers 43% through a "comprehensive opioid management strategy" that included providing its employees free prescription drug disposal bags. "All of us — companies, citizens and communities — must work together to overcome this crisis," The Hartford chairman and CEO Christopher Swift said in a statement.
The workplace is carrying much of the weight of the current drug epidemic. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers show that drug overdose is the fastest-growing cause of death at work, bypassing violence, traffic accidents and toxic-chemical exposure.
Opioid overdoses took the lives of more than 49,000 Americans in 2017, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates about 115 overdose fatalities occur each day, and the epidemic is still far from over. These statistics alone can be enough to mobilize HR and business leaders to educate themselves and their employees about opioid use, addiction, treatment and prevention.
One prevention strategy involves tackling the epidemic where it often starts: prescribed pain killers. In 2017, retailer CVS Health announced it would offer counseling and that it would change the way it provides some opioid prescriptions. CVS now limits opioid supplies to seven days for new patients, limits the daily dosage based on the drug's strength and requires that immediate-release opioids be dispensed before the drug's extended-release formulas are released.
In another strategy for fighting opioid addiction, the National Business Group on Health advises employers to team up with pharmacy benefit managers to make sure their health plans are complying with the national guidelines for opioid prescriptions set by the CDC.
Besides the toll the opioid crisis is having on workers' health and productivity, another fallout from the crisis is that 20% of male workers have essentially dropped out of the labor market, where unemployment is already low and the search for talent is fiercely competitive. Employers may need to explore new partnerships — and perhaps rethink their drug-testing policies altogether — should they find their talent pools are particularly at-risk.