Last updated: October 19, 2020
With the opioid crisis being declared a “public health emergency,” by president Trump it leaves many people wondering how did opiate addiction spiral so far out of control?
The Center for Disease Control estimates that over 180,000 people have been casualties of the opiate epidemic from 1999 to 2015, with the highest rates being for those aged 25 to 54 years of age. This past year estimates from the CDC show that 53,000 died from opioid overdose almost a third of the previous fifteen years combined. While those are the fatalities linked to opioid overdose, the CDC estimated that in 2014 alone more than 2 million Americans abused or were dependent on prescription opioids. The most common opioids linked to these addictions and deaths were Methadone, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone.
What factors have contributed to the current epidemic?
Such an increase over the years, caused many people to wonder. How did it all begin? One of the starting points of America’s increase in opioid use would be when Purdue Pharma, a family-owned pharmaceutical company based out of Stamford, Connecticut, received a patent of one of the most widely abused and distributed opioids, Oxycotin. After first hitting the market in 1996, Oxycontin turned into a billion-dollar industry in just four years.
With the quick rise of the popularity of Oxycontin in such a short time, many rumors have swirled around Purdue Pharma as to their methods of promoting can selling the drug. In 2007 the company pled guilty and paid hundreds of millions in fines for misleading the public as to the effects they may suffer as a result of using their product.
Rumors and accusations continued as the Los Angeles Times exposed the company claiming that they had a list they kept of doctors who they felt were prescribing their product rather liberally and kept these lists to themselves, failing to report it to authorities as they are required to do when any suspicion arises. By failing to report suspicion of impropriety they were then profiting off of prescription that could be considered questionable. The company is currently under federal investigation again though the reason has not been made public.
How good people get addicted to opiates?
Unfortunately, this epidemic is not confined to crime-laden areas where other illegal drug activity is likely to occur. Opioid addiction can strike many well-meaning people who are prescribed opioids to manage pain that lasts for a long duration of time because the longer a person takes opioids, the more tolerant they will become, thus requiring a higher dose to achieve the same results. Additionally, long-term use can result in physical withdrawal with discontinuation which may lead the person to seek more to alleviate the symptoms. Due to the nature of opioids, users also will experience a sense of euphoria and well-being which may cause them to begin to use the medication to achieve this feeling instead of simply when they are in pain.
How does this impact the workplace?
With an increase in opioid use and abuse by people that do not typically fit a normal drug addict profile, it is more difficult for business owners to protect themselves from being affected by employees who are abusing opioids. Opioid use in the workplace can lead to significant safety issues as use has been linked to an increase in workplace accidents. This can be even more dangerous in industries that are already considered dangerous or high-risk such as truck driving and the construction industry.
To help protect your company from the effects of opioid addiction, the best defense is a well-implemented drug testing policy that allows for pre-employment, random, post-accident, return to duty, and reasonable suspicion drug testing. Proper drug testing can lead to a reduction in workplace accidents and injuries, providing for a safer work environment for all involved.