One out of every three (32%) opioid prescriptions, which often are subsidized by U.S. employers, are being abused, according to a new study released today from Castlight Health, Inc.
The first-of-its-kind study, The Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce, offers new data and insights into the prescription painkiller crisis in the American workforce. The report also found that across the nation, 4.5% of people who obtain opioid prescriptions are abusers who account for 32% of total opioid prescriptions and 40% of opioid prescription spending.
Castlight also reports that opioid abusers cost employers nearly twice as much ($19,450) in medical expenses on average annually as non-abusers ($10,853).
Castlight Health conducted research on opioid abuse based on aggregated data from medical and pharmacy-based claims that cover nearly 1 million Americans who use Castlight’s health benefits platform.
Among other key issues related to opioid abuse, the report found baby boomers are nearly four times as likely (7.4%) to abuse opioids than millennials (2%); lower income patients are twice as likely to abuse prescription painkillers (compared to those living in high-income areas); and opioid abusers are more likely to live in the rural South (22 out of the top 25 U.S. cities for opioid abuse are primarily rural and located in Southern states).
Kristin Torres Mowat, senior vice president of health plan and strategic data operations at Castlight Health, says the personal impact that opioid painkiller abuse takes on individuals, their friends and family often ends in tragedy. And for employers, the impact also is undeniable.
“This crisis is also having a significant impact on the nation’s employers, both in the form of direct and indirect costs," she added. "From higher spending on healthcare, to lost productivity, to the dangers associated with employees abusing medications in the workplace: these are aspects of the crisis that are too often overlooked in the current discussion.”