Amber Meulendyke, Marketing and Public Relations Manager

This past Saturday, April 29, the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) held National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Free and anonymous collection sites were set up around the country for anyone to safely dispose of their expired or leftover prescription drugs.

Why create such an orchestrated event? Abuse of these drugs continues to be a widespread epidemic and is far from slowing down.

FEI has discussed the topic of opiate abuse in the past. Last June, we held a webinar with Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to increase awareness of this deadly epidemic. However, opioid abuse has taken thousands upon thousands of lives, and workplaces, families and communities everywhere are feeling the impact.

In 2015, there were 33,000 deaths nationally due to opioid overdose. Of those, more than 15,000 deaths involved a prescription opioid. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), emergency rooms see over 1,000 people daily for the misuse of prescription opioids.

Why is this happening? These drugs are highly addicting: As many as one in four people who receive prescription opioids struggle with addiction. Those who are prescribed opiates may become addicted even when using the drug as directed by a medical professional. In fact, addictive changes within the brain can be seen after taking only one prescription. This just goes to show that anyone can fall victim to addiction.

FEI recently held a webinar to educate both our clients and employees on the topic of opioid abuse, and we found that over a quarter of those in the room alone knew someone—or worse, more than one person—who had died from an overdose. Not surprisingly, our EAP Service Center has seen a notable increase in calls from distressed employees whose loved ones have died from opiate abuse.

So, what can the workplace do to lessen the effects of this deeply impacting epidemic?

To help determine the cost substance abuse has had in your workplace, the National Safety Council developed a free calculator. This tool provides business leaders with specific information on the abuse and misuse of prescriptions, alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs, as well as opioid and heroin addiction in the workplace based on size of employee base, industry, and state.

Once your organization understands the scope of abuse in your workplace, it might be time to review your substance abuse policy. You may also consider testing for opioids and integrating return-to-work protocols, especially in correlation to pain medications. Continual review and adjustment of your policy during these times is critical.

If you are unsure where to start, contact us to consult with an account manager who can provide you with clear next steps and assess your organization’s needs.