Opioid Overdose Epidemic

The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic. Opioids (including prescription and illicit opioids) killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015—which is nearly quadruple the number from 2000.

Learn how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working to protect individuals and families—including your employees and your business—from this dangerous problem.

Four Critical Challenges Facing Employers

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1OPIOID MISUSE HARMS AMERICA’S WORKFORCE

1OPIOID MISUSE HARMS AMERICA’S WORKFORCE

In 2013, the estimated lost productivity for people in the United States with opioid use disorder totaled $20.4 billion.

Every day, more than
1,000 people
are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids.
People who are addicted to prescription opioids are
40 times
more likely to become addicted to heroin, which is an illegal opioid that carries an even higher risk for overdose and death.
Injecting opioids also carries risk of serious, long-term viral infections such as:
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B
Bacterial infections of the:
  • Skin
  • Bloodstream
  • Heart
Sources
Did you know?

Did You Know?

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Opioid overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States. More than 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to opioids—prescription and illicit—since 2000.
The future lost productivity from persons who died of prescription opioid overdose totals $21.4 billion. Sources

2PRESCRIPTION OPIOID ABUSE HAS A HIGH COST

2PRESCRIPTION OPIOID ABUSE HAS A HIGH COST

 
In 2013, prescription opioid dependence, abuse and overdose cost the United States
$78.5 billion

More than one-third of this amount,
$29 billion,
is due to increased health care and substance abuse treatment costs.
The annual costs of health care for prescription opioid abuse/dependence diagnosed patients in 2013 were as follows:
Source
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Did you know?

x

In 2011, approximately 25 percent of workers' compensation prescription drug claim costs were for opioids. Opioids can help manage some types of pain but have serious risks of addiction and overdose. Prescription opioids should only be used when the benefits outweigh the risks.

Source

3PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS HAVE SIDE EFFECTS AND SERIOUS RISKS

3PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS HAVE SIDE EFFECTS AND SERIOUS RISKS

Prescription opioids can help with some types of pain in the short term but can have serious risks.
Opioids can increase the risk of workplace incidents, errors and injury.

Side effects:
drowsiness
worsened pain
mental confusion
depression
nausea
constipation
Risks:
opioid use disorder
overdose
death
Source
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3.8 million Americans reported non-medical use of prescription opioids in 2015.

As many as one in four people receiving prescription opioids long term in a primary care setting struggles with addiction.

Opioids should not be a first-line or routine therapy for chronic pain outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care and end-of-life care.

In a systematic evidence review, non-opioid medications were better tolerated than opioids, with greater improvements in physical function. Importantly, non-opioid medications did not differ from opioids in pain reduction.

4INSURANCE DOES NOT ALWAYS COVER NON-OPIOID THERAPIES

4INSURANCE DOES NOT ALWAYS COVER NON-OPIOID THERAPIES

Exploring payment reform and healthcare delivery models that could improve employee health and safety are important. Those interventions and strategies include:

Cover non-pharmacologic treatments that have good evidence for pain management such as exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Make it easier for clinicians to prescribe non-opioid pain medications with good evidence for pain treatment (e.g., certain anti-epileptic medications for neuropathic pain) by eliminating requirements such as prior authorization.
Encourage providers to participate in activities that improve quality and safety of pain management, such as patient counseling, coordination of care and checking the patient’s prescription history in their state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP).
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Exercise therapy, including exercise guided by a physical therapist, has been found to decrease pain and improve physical function in patients with certain types of chronic pain.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to reduce pain and improve function in patients with chronic pain.

Non-opioid pain medication, which includes medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, is not usually habit-forming and is effective in treating mild-to-moderate pain.

Although there is significant evidence supporting medication-assisted treatment as an effective treatment for opioid use disorder, it remains highly underutilized, being used by only an estimated 1 million of the 2.5 million Americans who might benefit from receiving it.

Source

CDC Business Benefits

CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control supports the efforts of state and local health departments and doctors and pharmacists to prevent opioid overdose, while ensuring that patients—many of whom are in the workplace—have access to safe, effective pain treatment.

CDC Business Benefits

CDC recommends ways to improve patient safety

CDC offers healthcare providers tools, recommendations and training for decision making based on proven practices.

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CDC informs states’ programs and policies

CDC equips states with resources and information to prevent prescription opioid abuse while ensuring patients have access to safe, effective pain treatment.

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CDC protects the public’s health

CDC seeks to improve data quality and track trends to monitor the epidemic.

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take action

Protecting your workforce from the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is linked to preventing worker injury, illness and overdose. CDC research and guidelines can inform safety and health decisions and help prevent injury in your organization. Chief medical officers and other staff who provide input on clinical care and benefit packages, and those who manage health clinics, can share best practices with employees to help protect their health and safety.

5 Actions to Protect Employees from Prescription Opioid Overdose

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1.Address substance use in the workplace
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  • Educate employees about substance use disorder, including opioid use disorder.

  • Consider developing and publicizing a formal, written policy to prevent drug use and help employees suffering from substance use disorders.

  • Recognize signs of substance use disorder and provide referrals to life-saving resources.

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2.Train managers to recognize and respond to pain and opioid misuse issues to enhance employee well-being and productivity
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  • Identify symptoms of injury or illness early.

  • Provide employee assistance programs (EAPs), health and work-life programs that include information and services related to substance abuse prevention, treatment and return-to-work issues.

  • Encourage employees to seek help for addiction or substance use disorders.

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3.Educate employees about pain and opioid misuse issues
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  • Help employees recognize and respond to chronic pain issues and potential opioid misuse. Encourage employees to take the following actions:

    • Make the most informed decision with their doctors.

    • Consider ways to manage pain that do not include opioids, such as exercise therapy, non-opioid medications and cognitive behavioral therapy.

    • Never take opioids in greater amounts or more often than prescribed. Never take opioids that are not prescribed to them.

    • Avoid taking opioids with alcohol and other substances or medications they have not discussed with their doctor.

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4.Review healthcare benefits packages
x
  • Investigate coverage options for pain treatment, including non-opioid therapies, and substance use treatment programs in insurance benefit packages.

    • Cover non-pharmacologic therapies such as exercise therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

    • Make it easier to prescribe non-opioid pain medications.

    • Reimburse patient counseling, care coordination, and checking prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP).

    • Promote more judicious use of high dosages of opioids using drug utilization review and prior authorization.

    • Remove barriers to evidence-based treatment of opioid use disorder (e.g., eliminate lifetime limits on buprenorphine).

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5.Learn more about prescription opioid drug overdose policies and interventions
x
  • Find out how your state is addressing opioid use in its workers’ compensation systems. Many states are educating healthcare providers on responsible opioid prescribing, and increasing awareness among injured workers.

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For more information about preventing prescription opioid overdose:

VISIT CDC’S INJURY CENTER

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