- Drug addiction has driven one in five American men out of the workforce, Fortune reports. According to research from Princeton University economist Alan Krueger, the prescription painkiller and opioid epidemic hit Appalachia, the Northeast and the Midwest the hardest, claiming 33,000 lives in 2015 alone. According to Fortune, employers in those regions say finding sober job applicants is challenging.
- Krueger's research was focused on the causes of workforce drop out rates, says Fortune. He found that labor depression was greatest in areas where opioids were most often prescribed. He also said that prescriptions varied not because of differences in health but because of differences in medical practices.
- President Donald Trump called the opioid epidemic a national emergency last month, but has yet to release funds or take administrative steps to fight the epidemic, according to Fortune.
Opioids are impacting the workforce in unprecedented ways. Opioid addiction — now at a 12-year high — is one of the major reasons why men ages 25 to 54 have dropped out of the workforce or are unable to work or find work. Currently, men have an 88.4% participation rate in the U.S. labor pool, which is slightly higher than the record low in 2014.
Employers, who are already struggling with recruiting and hiring in a workers' job market, now are grappling with drug addiction cutting into the talent pool. In a congressional hearing last month, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said opioid use is keeping employers from finding enough workers.
The percentage of employers conducting drug tests increased by 30%, according to Cleared Matched, an employment screening and investigative company. Job candidates reportedly fail employer-sponsored drug tests 25% to 50% of the time.
The first step in reversing the opioid epidemic is getting addicts into treatment. Federal lawmakers and the Trump administration have vowed to address the problem with funding. Opioid addiction is a societal dilemma that requires lawmakers, employers and employee advocacy groups to work together to address the epidemic.