Opioids were a factor in more than 60 percent of overdose deaths in 2014, according to a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Moreover, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse, the current opioid abuse has come about primarily through physician prescriptions, rather than illegally purchased drugs. Originally thought to be nonaddictive, doctors spent more than a decade helping patients manage pain through opioids. Unfortunately, that practice led to a widespread opioid problem — and the epidemic could have a direct impact on your workplace.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) took a three-pronged approach to solve the problem. First, the NIH is developing nonaddictive methods for managing chronic pain; second, it’s focusing on overdose prevention through improved interventions; and finally, it’s innovating new medications to treat opioid addicts. The New England Journal of Medicine pointed out that the Affordable Care Act is now providing health insurance options to millions, including those requiring treatment for drug use.
In early 2017, Tom Tait, mayor of Anaheim, Calif., said, “To deal with addiction, we need a culture of kindness,” as reported by the National League of Cities. Specifically, Anaheim instituted a program called Drug Free Anaheim. Anyone with an addiction can approach a police officer to ask for help. By giving the police the skills and knowledge necessary to address this problem at the street level, the city provides a direct pathway to recovery. These local programs have popped up around the country, providing an effective link between the local and national resources.
Employers of all sizes are feeling the impact of opioids, as opioid addiction impacts functioning, employed adults as well as those living on the streets. You may not know that someone is addicted to opioids until they reach a breaking point or ask for help. If you don’t personally have anyone working for you who’s addicted to opioids, chances are one of your employees has a friend or family member struggling with the problem.
The tools for recovery exist. As an employer, it’s important to educate yourself about the federal and state laws that provide family and sick leave and how health insurance can help address addiction so you can communicate these resources to your employees.
Federal programs, local response efforts and private health insurance can help those with an addiction to pain killers, and it’s crucial to be prepared, as someone you know at work is likely facing this epidemic — directly or indirectly. By sharing and communicating these valuable resources, you’re helping to remove the barrier of shame that prevents so many people from finding the help they need.
This content is provided solely for informational purposes. It is not intended as and does not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein should not be relied upon or used as a substitute for consultation with legal, accounting, tax and/or other professional advisers.
Dylan Murray has an MBA from San Diego State University and a bachelor’s degree in communication from Boston University. He is a licensed insurance agent in California, but he works as a professional researcher and writer reporting on business trends in estate law, insurance and private security. Dylan has worked as a script analyst with the Sundance Institute and the Scriptwriters Network in Los Angeles. He lives in San Diego, California, and Marseille, France.