75% Of Employers Say Opioid Use Impacts Their Workplace

More than a third have experienced absenteeism or impaired worker performance, and 31 percent have had an overdose, arrest, a near-miss or an injury because of employee opioid use.

Even though 75 percent of U.S. employers have been directly affected by opioids, only 17 percent feel extremely well prepared to deal with the issue, according to a new survey by the National Safety Council in recognition of Poison Prevention Week. Thirty-eight percent have experienced absenteeism or impaired worker performance, while 31 percent have had an overdose, arrest, a near-miss or an injury in their workplace due to employee opioid use.

opioid use in the workplace
(Source: U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Tech. Sgt. Mark R. W. Orders-Woempner)

“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 the National Safety Council. “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.”

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, according to NSC calculations. In fact, workplace overdose deaths involving drugs or alcohol have increased by at least 25 percent for five consecutive years.¹

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • Employers are more concerned about hiring qualified workers, employee benefits costs 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 percent of employers believe taking opioids even as prescribed can impair job performance, yet only 60 percent 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 percent are not very confident that individual employees can spot warning signs of opioid misuse
  • Encouragingly, 41 percent of employers would return an employee to work after he or she receives treatment for misusing prescription opioids

NSC provides a free Prescription Drug Employer Kit to help employers manage opioid use at work. Based on additional survey results, NSC intends to add components to the kit, including a robust workplace policy.

A copy of the survey questionnaire and full methodology is available here. For additional resources and information about drug misuse in the workplace, including a Substance Use Cost Calculator for Employers, visit nsc.org/drugsatwork.

¹ According to Bureau of Labor Statistics