Employers taking aim at opioid abuse

The opioid epidemic has found its way into the workplace. Find out what employers are doing to help fight prescription drug abuse.

A new report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans finds that employers have implemented a number of initiatives to address the issue. Steps include:

  • Requiring prior authorization of outpatient opioid prescriptions in excess of a certain number of days.
  • Providing alternative pain management treatments.
  • Offering a fraud tip hotline
  • Requiring written permission from a healthcare provider before a prescription is switched from an abuse-deterrent drug to one that is not.
  • Monitoring hospital discharges to look for signs of drug abuse.

The study, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Benefits: 2016 Survey Results, also found that one in four employers has conducted a prescription drug claims analysis to identify possible abuse.

Julie Stich, associate vice president at the foundation, stressed that addiction is not an easy problem for employers to address. “Employees who are struggling with substance abuse issues are often doing so in secret. They may fear that admitting a problem will cost them their job,” she said.

According to the survey employers are providing support to affected employees by offering substance abuse treatment benefits, prescription drug therapies, inpatient treatment, outpatient telemedicine treatment, as well as through their employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Of the more than 20 million Americans 12 or older with a substance abuse disorder in 2015, two million had disorders involving prescription pain relievers. The American Society of Addiction Medicine calls drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. The group says opioid addiction is driving the epidemic, with more than 20,000 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers.

BLR - February 21, 17