The worldwide impact of the opioid crisis has significantly changed the way societies look at drug overdose, and what it means to become addicted to a prescribe medicine. Yet, nowhere in the world has the opioid crisis weakened people, organizations, and culture like in the United States—with the whole of the American society having to suffer due to a situation few saw coming, and very few understand how to handle. Ignoring the impact of prescribing powerful drugs without considering significant consequences such as how addiction has weakened not only the society, but also the manner in which people interact with their families, their jobs, and with themselves, is a significant conductor of the crisis.
Numerous studies and statistics currently discuss how the opioid crisis is hurting industries, such as manufacturing, among others. Although quantifying the impact that such a crisis can have in the workplace is a difficult endeavor, understanding where we stand on this, both as a society but also as one of the largest manufacturing industries in the world, is of utmost importance for the United States.
In 2016, although not the first year in which the opioid crisis truly hit the U.S., resulted in drug overdoses killing more Americans than the entire Vietnam war— and the crisis has only gotten worse since. Thus, before discussing how the opioid crisis is hurting the manufacturing industry, we need to take a look at that history of this epidemic and how it has impacted the United States.
History and Essential Aspects of the Opioid Crisis in The United States
Statistics provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) show that every day, more than 130 Americans die of an opioid overdose. With almost 29% of the patients who are being prescribed opioids for chronic pain ending up misusing them, it is not difficult to see the impact that such a crisis can have on society. Yet, the opioid crisis has less to do with patients misusing the drugs, and more with how the drugs were prescribed in the first place, and also with the addiction that comes with taking such medication. According to NIDA, in the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies convinced medical professional and the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioids. Therefore, these drugs started being prescribed at higher rates.
The second wave of the opioid crisis came around 2010, when due to attempts of cutting back on prescribing opioids, people who were already addicted started looking elsewhere, and turned to other drugs such as heroin. Mortality data for the United States show that heroin overdose deaths have increased 45% from 2010 to 2011.
By 2013, the country was seeing an increase in deaths related to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. As previously mentioned, 2016 was the year in which the opioid crisis made its most severe impact, killing 65,000 people—and was also the year in which authorities started coming up with new methods for handling the situation.
In 2017, a new strategy for fighting the opioid crisis had been announced by officials, with measures such as: improving access to treatment, promoting the use of overdose-reversing drugs, strengthening the public’s understanding of the crisis, investing in cutting-edge research, and promoting better practices for pain management. Also, in 2018, an initiative for dealing with the opioid crisis has been announced—the Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or the HEAL initiative.
But even though more and more efforts are being put into overcoming this crisis and finding solutions to deal with its consequences, it might still be a long time before we can see meaningful results, given the years in which it has been ignored. If your employees are dealing with opioid addiction or dependency, the most important steps that your company can take arise from having the proper information not only on how the opioid crisis started, but also on its current impact on your industry.
The Decline of the Labor Force as a Result of the Opioid Crisis
There is no area in one’s life that remains intact when coming into contact with the severe consequences of an opioid addiction—yet the impact this epidemic has had on the labor force in the United States took everyone by surprise. Unfortunately, this speaks about awareness and preparedness of companies and institutions, but also of society as a whole, when it comes to cases of addiction to prescribed drugs. Even though in current times a lot of companies are making significant efforts from providing their employees with help in overcoming opioid addiction, in some areas, especially rural ones, the damage has already been done.
According to a study conducted by a professor of economy at the Princeton University, almost half of the men who are of working age—but not currently employed—are taking daily doses of pain medicines that are prescribed for them by a medical professional.
How the Opioid Crisis is Hurting the Manufacturing Industry
The above-mentioned study also speaks of the connection between the decline of the labor force in the United States, and a rise of addiction to prescribed pain medicine such as opioids—areas in which this kind of medicine is prescribed in higher doses are also the areas where a large number of people are dealing with unemployment. But what does that mean for the manufacturing industry and its employees?
The opioid crisis is reshaping all U.S. industries, especially manufacturing, with predominance in rural areas, where unemployment has made people turn to opioids and other prescribed drugs in order to cope with both anxiety and pain experienced from possible injuries left untreated due to financial difficulties. Statistics show that between 2011 and 2016, five time as many manufacturing-centered counties have experienced the highest drug overdose rates in the United States. Whether we are speaking of currently-employed manufacturing workers who are turning to opioids for dealing with pain and personal problems, or people who are unemployed and have developed an opioid addiction due to stress, these drugs have severely impacted manufacturers all over the U.S.
When employing new personnel in areas with an opioid problem, manufacturers end up having to deal with the addiction of their workers, and most of them might not be prepared for such a task. Therefore, taking all necessary measures so that your company has the best tools for handling the opioid crisis is mandatory for the health and safety of your employees and for assuring business continuity.
What Measures Can Your Manufacturing Business Take for Dealing with the Opioid Crisis?
Becoming proactive in the issue of opioids and their impact on the manufacturing industry is essential for all companies, not just the ones that are currently struggling with the consequences of the opioid crisis. The first steps you need make sure that all employees, especially those in charge with issues such as health, safety, and emergency response, are up-to-date with all matters concerning the opioid crisis. As soon as everyone is aware of the impact this crisis has had on the manufacturing industry, but also aware what measures to implement for helping employees, you can move on to the drafting and implementing real plans and strategies.
Measures to take for dealing with consequences of the opioid crisis:
- Help your employees improve the relationship they have with medical professionals and help them find better treatment options by guiding them toward non-profit organizations and hospitals that deal with opioid addiction and dependency
- Improve the way your supervising training is conducted and make sure that everyone in a management position knows how to intervene in case of an emergency, but also how to offer guidance at any given moment
- Implement trustworthy communication solutions that will help your employees communicate with other employees or with their supervisors when needed
- Keep all information confidential and offer your employees the assurance that in case they require it, they will be helped to get treatment privately
- Implement a drug-free workplace policy and discuss all the aspects concerning such a policy with all employees
- Change your sanctions policy to work toward helping your employees get help and overcome their addiction
Regardless of whether you have employees who are dealing with addiction or dependency, if your manufacturing company takes all necessary measures for both helping them and also protecting your other employees and the overall activity of your business will make a difference in how you deal with the opioid crisis.
The data and statistics mentioned throughout this article are only a part of the opioid crisis and its impact on people, families, societies, industries, and cultures. Using all this information to better your drug-free policies and implement plans and strategies for helping employees who are struggling with addiction of dependency needs to be done under the proper supervision of regulations and legislation. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you have all the facts and know all the guidelines in relation to the opioid crisis, before implementing any measures. Don’t forget to reach out to employees, and let them know that they can trust you with information of such a sensitive nature as an opioid addiction.