Recent research by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control has indicated that prescription opioid abuse, dependence, and overdoses cost the US economy nearly $80 billion in 2013. Opioid misuse can cost employers nearly $20,000 in average annual medical expenses, especially since one in three prescriptions provided under employer health care plans is being abused, according to research from the health-care firm Castlight Health. Castlight also found that painkiller abuse is four times more likely among baby boomers, and that the epidemic is particularly bad in the rural south. Indiana is another hotspot for the epidemic, where 80 percent of employers report being affected by the problem.
One Indiana company, the engine manufacturer Cummins Inc., has tried to tackle the issue head-on since discovering evidence of opioid misuse among its workforce in 2013. As the Wall Street Journal‘s Rachel Emma Silverman reports, they got both aggressive and proactive in their approach: The company, which employs 55,000 people, added opioids to the panel of drugs it tests employees for, but has sought to be flexible in its response to positive tests, since painkillers are most often legally prescribed and aren’t abused by a majority of workers. If an employee tests positive for opioids, they are directed to treatment if needed, as well as moved out of any safety-sensitive jobs in the company. And the company’s efforts don’t end there, as Silverman explains: