A major barrier to solving the opioid crisis: No one knows how to dispose of them
- One in four Americans say they’re worried about the opioid epidemic that's currently wreaking havoc on the workplace, but only about half believe it can be stopped, a new consumer study shows. According to Stericycle, Inc.’s The Opioid Epidemic and Unused Prescriptions, 68% of the 1,200 adults in the study do believe, however, that safe and secure disposal methods for unused drugs would help stem the epidemic.
- Without safety measures for drug disposal in place, 25% of study respondents admitted to being given unused opioids from family or friends. The results show that 42% of respondents currently have one to three bottles of unused prescriptions, including opioids, on hand; 9% have four to six bottles; 3% have more than 10 bottles.
- Fear of medical symptoms returning is the reason people hold onto their prescriptions, the study shows, but many frankly don't know what to do with leftover prescriptions. Many flush unused prescriptions down the drain or toilet, with 15% saying they don’t know how to dispose of unused prescriptions, and 78% believing that their doctor, pharmacy or hospital should collect them.
Employers bear much of the fallout from opioid addiction. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adam recently told the audience at the National Business Group on Health (NBGH)'s Business Health Agenda 2018 that employers have a large stake in helping curb the epidemic, which now affects 2.1 million Americans. But increasingly, employers have to engage directly with providers and insurers to make substantive changes that can help and protect employees.
For starters, employers can join doctors, pharmacies and hospitals in warning workers about the dangers of opioids, a collaboration that Stericycle’s CEO, Charles Alutto, strongly advocates. The study reveals that more people need information about the use and disposal of prescription drugs, and employers are in a strong position to assist with that education through their benefits programs.
Combating the epidemic is a matter of business survival for some industries. Addiction is said to have driven nearly 20% of men from the workforce alone in a time when talent is already difficult to come by. And workers who are already on the payroll sometimes remain out of work longer due to opioid use. According to research by the Workers Compensation Research Institute, injured workers on long-term prescription pain killers for back pain stay out on work disability longer, driving up care costs.