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Is Your Workplace Fostering Opioid Addiction?
By: Terri Dougherty

No employer wants to see employees become dependent on opioids. Addiction can, however, begin with work.

Job-related opioid use or abuse usually begins because of one of two issues:
  • Work-related pain and discomfort that results from an accident or long-term, repetitive movement.
  • Anxiety and depression brought on by work-related stressors such as work demands and job insecurity.
A study published in the American Journal for Public Health recently looked at how an employer’s actions can help reduce opioid misuse among workers. Putting these polices into practice helps a company keep good employees and avoid the productivity loss and health care costs that come with substance abuse.

Create a supportive culture

Employees may find it tough to talk about issues relating to substance abuse. To overcome the stigma of substance use disorder or an employee’s fear that admitting to a problem will lead to job loss, an employer can create a workplace culture that supports recovery. For example, an employer can:
  • Acknowledge that opioid use disorder is a medical problem
  • Provide options for recovery in a substance abuse policy
  • Work with health insurers and benefit managers to increase access to treatment
  • Encourage early use of substance use treatment
  • Increase awareness of employee assistance programs and health care benefits for treatment
  • Clear up misperceptions
Employees may not be aware of the dangers associated with opioid use. To help workers understand the risks:
  • Use health messaging to share information about the seriousness of opioid use and the susceptibility to addiction and overdose
  • Provide information on safe prescription storage and disposal of prescription medication
  • Make opioid education part of health and safety training
Reduce injury risk

Employers can make an impact on opioid abuse by tackling it at the source: pain caused by workplace injuries. Opioid overdose deaths are more common in individuals with heavy jobs, precarious work, and limited health care benefits.

Musculoskeletal injuries are the leading cause of work-related injury and disability. They can be the result of:
  • Chronic exposure to ergonomic risk factors
  • Acute incidents (including slips, trips, falls)
  • Heavy physical work
  • Excessive repetition of tasks
Employers can help reduce worker risk for these injuries by:
  • Implementing policies that reduce risk factors for these injuries
  • Responding to health and safety concerns
  • Looking for ways to bring the worker back to a modified job or alternate duty during recovery from an injury

 
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