What The Opioid Epidemic Means To You

The news media carries stories every week about America’s burgeoning Opioid Epidemic.  Why?  Because about 120 Americans die from prescription drug overdoses each and every day.  It is completely out of control. So you may be wondering What The Opioid Epidemic Means To You.

The Opioid epidemic touches millions of families and businesses across the country.  Have you been affected yet?  Will you be next?

By far and away, the majority of prescription drug overdose deaths come from Opioids, also known as pain killers.  For example, Tom Petty is the latest celebrity victim.

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids 2000-2016

What The Opioid Epidemic Means To You – Families

Recent research findings:

  1. familyTo begin, Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as the legal prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others. (National Institute On Drug Abuse)
  2. Alarmingly,if you are under age 50, Opioids are most likely to cause your death, versus any other reason. (Center For Disease Control)
  3. Furthermore, drug overdose deaths have risen so much that the average Americans’ life expectancy has actually declined over the last 2 years. (Center For Disease Control)  The last time Americans’ life expectancy declined was when the AIDs epidemic peaked.
  4. Most noteworthy, the FDA approved Oxycontin for children as young as 11 years old.  Consequently, a Yale Medical Study showed that children’s’ Opioid overdose deaths doubled in just 5 years.
  5. Especially relevant, every 25 minutes an American baby is born suffering from Opiate Withdrawal. (National Institute On Drug Abuse) 
  6. In 2016 alone, 63,000 Americans died from prescription drug overdoses (42,000 from Opioids); a startling 21% increase versus previous year.  That’s more than the 58,000 Americans lost in the entire Vietnam war! (National Center For Health Statistics)
  7. Sales of Opioid prescription pain killers quadrupled over the past 15 years while there was no increase in reported pain levels among Americans. (Center For Disease Control)
  8. Pacira Pharmaceuticals reports that women aged 40 to 59 are prescribed more opioids than any other group; more than twice that of men the same age.
  9. The DEA reports that abuse of controlled prescription drugs is higher than that of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, MDMA, and PCP combined.
  10. Finally, prescription drug overdoses now kill more Americans every year than breast cancer, gun violence, or auto accidents.
    1. Prescription Drug Overdose 63,000
    2. Breast Cancer – 40,000
    3. Guns – 38,000
    4. Auto wrecks – 37,000 (National Center For Health Statistics)

What The Opioid Epidemic Means To You – Employers

  1. First of all, a whopping 12 million people report abusing opioids in 2016. (National Survey On Drug Use And Health)  The vast majority (70%) of drug abusers are full-time employees. (US Department of Labor)  Your employees?
  2. Furthermore, the average opioid fatality is a worker in his or her prime employment years, late 30’s and early 40’s. (National Survey On Drug Use And Health) 
  3. Non-fatal opioid usage cost employers a total of $72 billion for 2.4 million people with opioid addictions in 2015. (The White House Council of Economic Advisers)
  4. ostrichThe National Safety Council reports that drug abuse affects 7 in 10 businesses.  And yet, 41% of employers do not yet test employees for opioids.  Seems like an ostrich comes to mind.
  5. Prescription opioid abuse leads to heroin addiction.  Most noteworthy, NIDA reports a study where 80% of heroin addicts reported using prescription pain killers before resorting to heroin as a more affordable alternative.
  6. Employers bear much of the cost of their employees health insurance.  Ironically, in so doing, employers are paying for the pills that lead to their employees’ heroin addiction, and often, death.
  7. Opioid abusers are sick / absent from work twice as often. (NPR)
  8. Another Princeton University study found that:
    1. Opioid abuse accounts for a 20% decline in labor participation.
    2. Furthermore, nearly half of men in their prime who do not participate in the workforce take opioids daily.
  9. Especially relevant in 2017, The President’s Council of Economic Advisers estimated that the cost of the Opium Epidemic exceeds $500 Billion a year.  That’s almost 3% of the country’s total GNP!
  10. Most noteworthy, drug abusing employees:
    1. Are 3 times more likely to be involved in workplace accidents.
    2. File Workers Comp claims 5 times higher than average.
    3. Are 4 times more likely to steal from you, your customers, and their co-workers.
    4. Use 3 times more sick day benefits than average.
    5. Are only 2/3 as productive as sober employees

Why Do People Abuse Opioids?

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) identified the reasons people abuse opioids.

  • First of all cited, to relieve physical pain – 63%
  • Also, to feel good or get high- 12%
  • In addition, to relax or relieve tension -11%
  • Another reason, to help with sleep – 5%
  • Finally, to experiment – see what it is like -2%

Government Response To Opioid Epidemic

Seal United States Department of Health and Human ServicesThe US Department of Health and Human Services has developed a 5-point plan to combat the Opioid Epidemic.

  • First, improving access to treatment and recovery services.
  • Next, promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs.
  • Then, strengthening our understanding of the epidemic through better public health surveillance.
  • Also, providing support for research on pain and addiction.
  • And finally, advancing better practices for pain management.

The Future Of The Opium Epidemic

Some estimate that the cost of the Opium epidemic will double to over a trillion dollars in the next 5 years.  Only time will tell how effective the government’s efforts will be to curtail the Opium Epidemic.

Marijuana proponents with an obvious conflict of interest, laud pot as the answer to pain relief.  Unfortunately, research shows the opposite.  Pot smokers are far more likely to move on to opiates and other hard drugs, versus the other way around.

Keep watching here as we monitor the developing crisis to report what the Opioid epidemic means to you.