Opioid Abuse Epidemic Affecting the American Workplace

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Marsha Fisher
800.699.8011 x 71428


Raleigh, N.C. (November 28, 2018)The opioid abuse epidemic in America was deemed a public health emergency in 2017 with an estimated 11.4 million people misusing prescription opioids. The social and economic impact is being felt in large cities and small towns across the nation as states struggle to manage the strain on healthcare, law enforcement and social services.

A new poll commissioned by Workplace Options, a leading global provider of integrated employee wellbeing services, indicates the strain is being felt by employers as well. Of those polled, 77% of employees considered opioid addiction to be either a very serious or somewhat serious workplace problem, citing safety issues as the most common negative consequence.

“We are witnessing this epidemic firsthand and in many different ways,” shares Dean Debnam, Chief Executive Officer at Workplace Options. “In addition to providing support to employees with substance abuse issues, we are also helping loved ones identify treatment facilities and legal resources. Our financial consultants also provide support in terms of managing debt brought on by substance abuse.”

Debnam adds, “This crisis is having a significant impact on employers in terms of productivity, absenteeism, turnover and healthcare costs.” 

Poll results also revealed:

  • 29% of employees polled reported that they had been prescribed an opioid in the last five years.
  • 23% of respondents making under $25k a year reported personally experiencing issues with opioids, compared to 8% overall.
  • Among 18-45 year olds polled, 29% said they personally knew someone they believed to be abusing opioids.
  • 22% of managers polled reported they had supervised an employee they believed to be abusing opioids.

Additionally, almost 50% of those polled reported they did not have or were not aware of having access to an employer sponsored wellbeing program. “Clearly, there is an opportunity here for companies to do more.  Those with programs available for employees need to make sure they communicate regularly about how the program works, and the different ways it can help,” shares Debnam. “Those who do not provide these types of services to their employees should consider the benefits to individuals, and to the organization. A confidential employee wellbeing program can be a great first step for employees to get the help they need.”

Of poll participants who did not have access to an employer-provided wellbeing program, 63% reported they would likely use the benefit if it were available. As employers identify ways to respond internally to the opioid crisis, the value of an effective, confidential wellbeing program cannot be overlooked.

As Vice President of Global Coaching Services at Workplace Options, Debbie Jongkind, RD, LDN, PCC, NBC-HWC, believes company-supported wellbeing programs also offer a proactive approach to the opioid crisis. “People abuse prescription drugs to manage issues with pain, anxiety, sleeplessness, and lack of energy and focus. Offering education and alternative tools for support empowers the employee to make healthier life-style choices,” explains Jongkind. “Wellbeing programs that offer support for weight loss, stress management, physical activity and mindfulness training have positive impact on employee emotional and physical health and are preventative measures that can decrease the overuse of prescription drugs.”

The national poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling on November 2-5, 2018, and is based on responses from 563 working Americans. The margin of error is +/- 4.1 percent. Full results are available HERE.

For more information about Workplace Options, visit https://www.workplaceoptions.com/ or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.


About Workplace Options

Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs.

Drawing from an international network of credentialed providers and professionals, Workplace Options is the world’s largest integrated employee support and work-life services provider. Service centers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Portugal, France, Belgium, UAE, Singapore, Japan, China, India and Indonesia support more than 58 million employees across 90,000 organizations and more than 200 countries and territories. To learn more, visit www.workplaceoptions.com.