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There are five things employers should know about prescription painkiller use and how it affects employee safety and the financial security of their business:
- Opioid painkillers compromise employee safety. Even after an employee returns to work, he or she could still feel the effects of prescription painkillers. Although an employee may take a legitimately prescribed amount of painkillers, he or she may be too impaired to operate equipment, drive or perform other job duties safely.
- Workers prescribed opioids have significantly higher workers' compensation claims. Workers prescribed even one opioid have four times more expensive total claim costs than workers with similar claims who didn't get opioids.[i] Employers and insurers have been held financially accountable for overdose deaths tied to injured workers.[ii]
- Employers play an important role in helping their employees seek treatment. Research shows that employee recovery rates are higher when employers offer or suggest treatment, rather than friends or family.[iii]
- Opioid painkillers can delay recovery and return to work. "Return to work" and "fitness for duty" criteria vary widely, so it's often difficult for employers to determine when an employee can safely begin working while under the influence of prescription painkillers.[iv] Opioid painkillers also delay recovery from workplace injuries.[v]
- Using opioid painkillers increases the likelihood of disability claims. Receiving more than a one-week supply of opioids soon after an injury doubles a worker's risk of disability one year later.[vi]
"Most employers understand how detrimental illegal drugs can be in the workplace, but few recognize the toll of the prescription painkiller epidemic," said
NSC also released a toolkit with information to help employers revise existing workplace drug policies and programs. Visit nsc.org/rxemployerpolicy for the entire employer guide and to download the toolkit.
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[i] According to Hopkins-Accident Research Fund Study
[ii] According to
[iii] According to Psychiatric Services, 2009
[iv] According to
[v] According to 2007 Spine article by