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Opioids In The Workplace: 10 Health Actions Employers Can Take Right Now

Opioid and substance abuse continues to be an issue in the workplace.  Health Action Council’s recent insight paper entitled, “Opioids in the Workplace: 10 Health Actions Employers Can Take Right Now,” reveals that 67% of employers continue to express concerns related to prescription drug misuse, which is essentially unchanged from 2017 data.

The financial impact of substance abuse continues to plague the workplace with increased health expenditures, lost productivity, absenteeism, workers’ compensation, and disability. These issues cost employers at least $18 billion annually.

“The health and safety of the workforce, as well as the risk to the bottom line of business, continues to be a problem,” said Patty Starr, President and CEO of Health Action Council.  “Our hope is to continue to raise awareness by helping employers understand the impact of opioids on the workplace and create an action plan in response to the abuse.”
Lost lives, absenteeism, dangerous actions due to impairment from opioid use, job attrition, and increase in treatment costs are all byproducts of this issue. Health Action Council has composed a set of 10 actions employers can take to fill these gaps with managers and supervisors in mind. 

1) Push Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to be transparent about formulary design and strategic services. Make certain that formulary decision-making and design is the best practice work of an independent, unaffiliated council of clinical pharmacists and physicians.

2) Ensure there is monitoring in place for the prescribing behavior of network providers. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) was designed to mitigate misuse and monitor and analyze prescription and dispensing data for controlled substances.

3) Drive patients to Centers for Excellence – Employers should have the tools they need to not only identify and manage opioid-related risk within their population but also connect employees to high-quality providers.

4) Have a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.  

5) Update drug screens to include screening for prescription painkillers.

6) Train managers to know the signs of opioid misuse and/or impairment.

7) Provide resources to employees. Coach managers on how to respond to employees, as well as referring them to appropriate providers, and community resources.  

8) Define the roles and responsibilities of employees taking legitimately-prescribed opioid mediations.

9) Create a series of actions to take for prescribed abusers of opioids or those whose work is impacted.

10) Reduce stigma in the workplace—Employees should not fear the loss of their job or any retaliation for expressing their concerns, confessing their programs, or admitting they need help to get better.

While opioids continue to create problems in the workplace, there are a number of implications employers can take to help mitigate the impact to their company’s workforce and bottom line.  Payers, providers, and patients all need to pitch in to truly end this crisis.  For access to the complete paper, please visit

>>>Download our Opioids in the Workplace insight today!

About Health Action Council
Health Action Council is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization representing mid- and large-size employers that enhances human and economic health through thought leadership, innovative services, and collaboration. It provides value to its members by facilitating projects that improve the quality and moderate the cost of healthcare purchased by its members for their employees, dependents, and retirees.

Health Action Council also collaborates with key stakeholders – health plans, physicians, hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry – to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare in the community.  For more information, please visit

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