Why the Opioid Epidemic puts Your Business at Risk
What can you do about the Opioid Crisis?
By Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics
There’s no other way to put it: the U.S. is suffering from what can only be described as an opioid epidemic, and it’s costing us billions of dollars a year. Yes. Billions. It accounts for higher costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. The CDC estimates that the misuse of prescription opioids alone adds up to $78.5 billion a year in the United States.
How does this put your business at risk?
First, let’s explain prescription drug abuse. Drug prescriptions are legal right? Yes and no. If prescribed by a doctor and taken correctly by the person whose name is on the prescription, it is legal. It is illegal when the person is taking more than the written dose or the addict is using someone else’s prescription. You might not realize, but your bathroom cabinet can be an addicts dream! This abuse has morphed into a major national health crisis.
Did you know that an average 130 Americans die every single day from opioid-related overdoses? This is six times higher than was recorded in 1999.
Bottom line. The opioid epidemic puts your business at risk. As the crisis grows, the chance of having an employee high on opioids grows. As that risk grows, so does the chance of work related accidents. Like with any addiction, opioid addicts affect the world around them. This puts your employees at risk. Addicts are prone to frequent absenteeism, increased employee turnover, decreased productivity, poor decision-making, errors, conflicts with coworkers, and theft. Ultimately, it is up to you, as the manager or business owner, to protect your employees and business with a drug-free workplace.
Drug testing for pre-employment, post accident and random testing is vital to the safety of your employees and the economic safety of your business.
- For pre-employment, you should know if that “perfect” job candidate sitting in front of you is addicted to opioids. You can learn more in our blog, Why you should conduct Pre-Employment Drug Testing.
- What about your employee coming back after an accident or surgery? Did the doctor prescribe opioids as painkillers? Are they still taking the drug? That’s when post accident drug testing is needed.
- Random drug testing is another tool for a drug-free-workplace. These unannounced drug tests can identify and hopefully prevent a disaster. It also shows how serious your company is about drug addiction.
The side effects from opioids make it even more dangerous for employees in the transportation industry, construction and medical fields. Imagine your employee operating an airplane or bus while they’re high on opioids and experiencing side effects like drowsiness, headaches, nausea and confusion. What about an opioid addicted laboratory lab technician who is testing for cancer in a patient? You wouldn’t want them to have anxiety, depression or mood swings.
Origins of the Epidemic
The first wave began in 1991 when medical institutions began liberally prescribing opioid and opioid-combination medications for the treatment of pain. At the time, pharmaceutical companies said that opioids had a very low risk of addiction, so it was widely prescribed by doctors. In the beginning, it was used to relieve cancer-related pain. By 1999, 86% of those taking opioids prescribed by their doctor were taking them for pain not related to cancer. It’s not surprising that in communities where medicinal opioids were readily available and liberally prescribed that opioid abuse first began spiking in the United States.
The second wave happened in the late 2000s. This is when the deaths related to heroin, a strictly illegal opioid, increased rapidly. Shockingly enough, this was actually a result of efforts to decrease opioid misuse. It started to get hard for patients to obtain prescriptions for opioids, so opioid-addicted patients began turning to heroin. It was a cheap, widely available, and potent illegal opioid. It didn’t matter who you were because heroin deaths happened no matter your gender, age, or income. Deaths related to heroin-related overdoses increased almost 300% in the 2000s.
The third and current wave has seen a sharp increase in deaths primarily related to synthetic opioids. These are the manufactured opioids that do not come from the opium plant. The most infamous of all is fentanyl. We will explain the difference to you in the next section.
In 2016, a staggering 20,000 deaths related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids occurred. In 2017, the Opioid Epidemic was declared a public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
At this point, the term “opioid” covers a wide assortment of drugs.
First, it’s important to understand that opiates and opioids are not the same thing. Yes, Opiates are drugs derived from opium, a natural product of a particular species of poppy. Opioids, on the other hand, traditionally refer to synthetic opiates.
Even with their “technical” differences, opioids and opiates are typically taken to relieve pain, and they are highly addictive. Because they cause feelings of euphoria in the brain, they’re able to mask undesirable physical sensations and produce a sense of well being for the patient. This is the “high” that addicts crave. It makes them want more and higher doses, and they become dependent upon the drug. Frequent and severe dosage increases are likely to put them at risk of overdosing and/or death.
What can you do about the Opioid Crisis?
As an employer, you can protect your employees and your business by drug testing for pre-employment, post accident and with random testing. Creating a drug-free-workplace is an investment in your company and employees, both now and in the future.
As a leading drug testing manufacturer, uVera Diagnostic’s drug test products are cost-effective, easy to use and read. You have the choice of all-in-one drug test cups, dip cards and cups and saliva test kits. By having a drug-free workplace and standard drug testing procedures in place, you will be able to proactively protect both your employees and your business.
We have many other drug testing kits, as well, that you can use for random drug testing. Contact us today if you have any questions about how we can help you fulfill your drug-free workplace initiative.
For more information on drug testing, click here or call 1-866-242-5930.
Posted by Bill Nee, VP Sales/Marketing uVera Diagnostics and Co-designer and Developer of the CR3 split-sample drug test cup. Bill has 27 years in sales management and marketing and is a 12 year veteran of the drug testing industry. As a parent and co-worker, Bill’s energy is focused on drug testing on every level. Addiction is all around us in alcohol, prescriptions and street drugs, and that is a constant reminder a drug free society starts with each and every one of us.
This information is meant for awareness and education purposes only. Any medical or life saving advice should come from experts. Always consult with your physician about any and all drugs. If it is an emergency, dial 911 or call emergency services.