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Opioid Awareness

Addressing Employee Substance Misuse During the Pandemic

Rachael Cooper

Senior Program Manager for Substance Use Harm Prevention, The National Safety Council

During the pandemic, more than 30 states have reported increases in opioid overdose deaths, and there is ongoing concern for those with mental illness and substance use disorders (SUDs). Additionally, the pandemic may lead to increased substance use and mental illness in the months and years to come. Employers must take action now to curb this issue and help their employees stay safe and healthy.

On the rise

In 2018, preventable opioid overdose deaths in the country began to decrease by 1% from the year prior, which was the first decrease seen since tracking started in 1999. COVID-19 has impacted the prevention, treatment, and recovery options for those battling SUDs, including opioid use disorder. Decreased accessibility to treatment, limitations in harm-reduction services, fewer in-person social supports, and other changes may all be contributing to the reported rise in opioid overdose deaths we are now seeing and may continue to see in the future. In addition, social isolation, economic instability, and unemployment can impact one’s mental health and lead to increased risk of overdose and relapse.

To help employers address this issue during the pandemic and beyond, we must have a fuller understanding of substance use disorders. Here are six resources to help educate employers:

Every organization’s return-to-work strategy needs to address employee substance misuse. Does yours?

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