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Fewer Than 20% of Employers are Prepared for Opioid Abuse

Death from opioid overdose is more common than death from a motor vehicle crash.

Even though 75% of companies have experienced the effects of the opioid epidemic, only 17% say they are "extremely well prepared" to handle it, according to a new survey from the National Safety Council (NSC).

The results of the survey were released in recognition of Poison Prevention Week.

“The opioid crisis is truly encompassing nearly every aspect of American lives. Today’s survey confirms that the No. 1 cause of preventable death is not just taking its toll on our home lives, but companies across the country are also grappling with the impact of this epidemic,” said Nick Smith, interim president and CEO of NSC. “If there is a silver lining, it’s that we have an opportunity to gain the attention and resources of American businesses to combat this societal scourge. NSC is committed to working with employers to define best practices and support a two-pronged approach of confronting the crisis in our homes and workplaces.”

Recent NSC statistics have demonstrated the widespread impact of the opioid crisis. For the first time in U.S. history, a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash.

Workplace overdose deaths involving drugs or alcohol have increased by 25% for five consecutive years. Thirty-eight percent of employers have experienced absenteeism or impaired worker performance, and 31% have had an overdose, arrest, a near-miss or an injury because of employee opioid use.

Other key findings from the NSC survey show:

  • Employers are more concerned about hiring qualified workers, and employee benefits and worker compensation costs than they are about employee use of legal prescription opioids or illicit use/sale of opioids. However, opioid misuse – legal or illicit – can impact all other issues employers cited as more concerning.
  • 86% of employers believe taking opioids even as prescribed can impair job performance, yet only 60% have policies in place requiring employees to notify their employer when they are using a prescription opioid.
  • Only half of employers are very confident that they have the appropriate HR policies and resources to deal with opioid use and misuse in the workplace.
  • 79% of employers are not very confident that individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse
  • Encouragingly, 41% of employers would return an employee to work after he or she receives treatment for misusing prescription opioids.

A copy of the survey questionnaire and full methodology is available at the NSC's website.

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