Studies Reveal Opioids’ Rising Financial Tolls; Novus Medical Detox Urges Employers to Revisit Drug Policies

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With new studies showing prescription opioids cost the U.S. economy nearly $80 billion and increase employers’ medical expenses, Novus Medical Detox Center calls for Drug-Free Workplace policies to address the prescription painkiller epidemic.

Will Wesch, Director of Admissions for Novus Medical Detox Center, advises employers to update their drug policy.

Most workplace drug policies focus on deterring illicit drug use, but fewer address misuse of prescription drugs.

According to new government-sponsored research, the national economic burden of prescription opioid overdoses, abuse and dependence has risen to $78.5 billion per year.(1) Another study determined that opioid abusers cost employers nearly twice as much in medical expenses as non-abusers.(2) Novus Medical Detox Center, a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility, advises employers to take a more proactive role in combating the prescription opioid crisis by ensuring their workplace drug policies and testing address prescription medication abuse.

Of the nearly $80 billion in economic costs related to prescription opioid misuse and abuse, $21.5 billion is linked to overdose fatalities, $26.1 billion to healthcare costs, $20.4 billion to lost productivity, $7.7 billion to criminal justice and $2.8 billion to substance abuse treatment. Employers absorb a significant proportion of these costs, including $21.4 billion in lost productivity due to fatal overdoses and $16.3 billion due to reduced productive time/increased disability, as well as the employer-subsidized share of over $14 billion in private health insurance costs.(1)

A recent Castlight Health study found that nearly 1 in 3 U.S. opioid prescriptions is being abused. While only 4.5% of patients who received a prescription for narcotic painkillers are abusing them, those individuals account for 32% of total opioid prescriptions and 40% of opioid prescription spending. In addition, employers pay an average of $19,450 per year in medical costs for opioid users, compared to $10,853 for non-users.(2)

“Most workplace drug policies focus on deterring illicit drug use, but fewer address misuse of prescription drugs,” noted Will Wesch, Director of Admissions for Novus Medical Detox Center. “Many employers avoid the topic out of concern for employees’ privacy or the mistaken belief that legitimately prescribed medications don’t pose a threat to workplace safety or productivity. However, the statistics tell another story.”

A National Safety Council poll found that nearly half of prescription opioid users participated in potentially unsafe activities with opioids in their system: 39% went to work, 35% drove a vehicle and 14% operated heavy machinery.(3) Opioid use was linked to workplace accidents in a 2010 report by Quest Diagnostics, which revealed hydrocodone was found in post-accident drug tests nearly five times as often as in pre-employment tests.(4) Furthermore, a Southern Pacific Railroad study showed that incidents resulting in injuries fell 71%—from 2,234 to 322—from the year before drug testing to the year after its introduction.(5)

“Employers need to recognize the costs and risks associated with opioid abuse, and take steps to address the prescription painkiller epidemic,” asserted Wesch. He advises employers to:

  • Request a free Prescription Drug Employer Kit from the National Safety Council.
  • Update workplace drug policies to include prescription medications.
  • Assess and expand (as appropriate) the scope of drug testing.
  • Collaborate with healthcare benefits providers and workers’ compensation carriers to monitor and manage opioid prescribing and use.
  • Educate supervisors and employees about opioid-related health and safety hazards.
  • Offer confidential support via an employee assistance program (EAP).

Wesch also advocates for employer-sponsored treatment—including detox and drug rehab programs—for workers diagnosed with opioid use disorders.

“Investing in employees’ health and safety can improve morale, productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line,” he concluded.

Novus provides medically supervised drug detox programs that help patients safely manage opiate and opioid withdrawal with minimal discomfort. The Florida drug detox facility offers individually customized treatment plans based on proven medical protocols, including 24-hour access to nursing care and withdrawal specialists. Novus is renowned for its expertise in treating high-dose methadone cases, and is proficient in detoxing patients from other high-dose opioids just as safely, comfortably and effectively.

For more information on Novus Medical Detox Center and its opioid detox and treatment programs, visit http://www.novusdetox.com.

About Novus Medical Detox Center:
Novus Medical Detox Center has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation as an inpatient medical detox facility. Licensed by the Florida Department of Children and Families, Novus provides safe, effective alcohol and drug treatment programs that are based on proven medical protocols and designed to minimize the discomfort of withdrawal. The facility is located on 3.25 acres in New Port Richey, Florida, in a tranquil, spa-like setting bordering protected conservation land. Intent on proving that detox doesn’t have to be painful or degrading, Novus set out to transform the industry by bringing humanity into medical detox with individually customized treatment programs and 24/7 access to nursing care and withdrawal specialists. Today, Novus is renowned as a champion of industry standardization and a staunch advocate of patients fighting to overcome substance use disorders. Frequently recognized for its contributions to the industry and local community, Novus has become a regular source to media publications such as The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and has ranked in the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Fast 50, the Florida Business Journal’s Top 500 and the Inc. 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. For more information on Novus’ medically supervised detox programs, visit http://novusdetox.com.

1. Florence, Curtis S.; Chao Zhou; et al. “The Economic Burden of Prescription Opioid Overdose, Abuse, and Dependence in the United States, 2013”; Medical Care; October 2016. journals.lww.com/lww-medicalcare/Fulltext/2016/10000/The_Economic_Burden_of_Prescription_Opioid.2.aspx

2. Castlight Health. “New Study Reveals 32 Percent of Total Opioid Prescriptions Are Being Abused”; press release issued April 20, 2016. castlighthealth.com/press-releases/new-study-reveals-32-percent-of-total-opioid-prescriptions-are-being-abused

3. Trotto, Sarah. “Prescription Painkillers and the Workforce”; Safety and Health; September 27, 2015. safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/print/12932-prescription-drugs-workers

4. Quest Diagnostics. “U.S. Worker Use of Prescription Opiates Climbing, Shows Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index”; press release issued September 16, 2010. ir.questdiagnostics.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=82068&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1472189

5. National Safety Council. The Proactive Role Employers Can Take: Opioids in the Workplace; July 22, 2014. nsc.org/RxDrugOverdoseDocuments/proactive-role-employers-can-take-opioids-in-the-workplace.pdf

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