Opioid Addiction Cost American Employers Between $10-$25 Billion a Year

A recent study by the ASAM estimates that American employers lose billions of dollars a year of productivity due to opiate abuse. These losses appear in the form of missed work, injuries related to intoxication, and termination and training of new replacement employees. In some studies, that number has been estimated to be as high as $65 billion dollars per year in the US alone, but the problem is worldwide.

The study serves as yet another example of the reach and devastation related to the American addiction crisis, in its many and often hidden forms.

Nationally, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, employers are losing $10 billion a year from absenteeism and lost productivity due to opioid abuse.

Nearly one in 20 workers who have received an opioid prescription, on average 4.5 percent, have demonstrated a pattern of drug abuse, according to the firm’s research. Among baby boomers, the prevalence of abuse is even higher at nearly 7.5 percent. Read More…

What makes this study unique is its assertion of an exact dollar figure regarding the damages caused by this issue, and the fact that a very large portion of these addicts are highly functional professionals and blue-collar workers. It also further illustrates the ever growing need for affordable drug treatment services and long term treatment centers.


Michele Zumwalt, an author with 12 years in recovery, explains her own experiences of working while being high on opiates.

Three decades ago, the treatment Michele Zumwalt received for severe headaches involved a shot of the opioid Demerol. Very quickly, Zumwalt says, she would get headaches if she didn’t get her shot. Then she began having seizures, and her doctor considered stopping the medication.

“I didn’t know I was addicted, but I just knew that it was like you were going to ask me to live in a world without oxygen,” she says. “It was that scary.”

Zumwalt didn’t cut back. In fact, over two decades, the Sacramento, Calif., resident got an ever-a

“I could show up at Xerox and put on a presentation, and I was high on Percodan,” she recalls. “I mean, fully out of it. I don’t know how many I had taken, but so many that I don’t remember the presentation. And do you know that people didn’t know?”

Her addiction worsened, eventually forcing her to take medical leave. Read More…


Another interesting case study regarding opiates in the “blue-collar” work place involves a United Steelworker that was fortunate enough to work at a company that utilized an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Anyone who battles addiction knows that it’s much more than a bad habit or a moral shortcoming. Addiction is a compulsion so beyond our control, that we may as well be a feather fighting against a gale-force wind. Luckily for me, people at my workplace pulled me out of the storm.I was a hard rock miner at the time and fortunately my union, the United Steelworkers, had an Employee Assistance Program whose staff guided me to the treatment I needed. They accepted me as a person who has a problem, not a problem person, and put me on the road to recovering my sobriety and my dignity. Read MoreOVERCOMING EMPLOYEE ADDICTIONFortunately, many companies are putting in place programs to address these issues. Coupled with the evolution of the perception of drug addiction being a disease, many resources are available for companies to put in place such programs.

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