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Opioids: Minimizing Abuse, Misuse and Overuse


Opioids are a class of drugs that include illegal drugs such as heroin and prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin. Designed to “interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain, [they] produce pleasurable effects and relieving pain.”¹

Drug overdoses are a leading cause of accidental death; it is crucial that steps are taken to combat this national crisis. Employers can help by recognizing the appropriate utility of opioids, while also providing educational resources to employees to minimize potential abuse.

Why Is Opioid Addiction Rising?

Overprescribing is a major contributor to the opioid epidemic, as roughly 21-29% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.¹ Over 60 percent of people who misused opioids did not have a prescription, causing a demand for physicians to curb their prescribing habits.²

Not all episodes of misuse were intentional, however. Two-thirds of the people who engaged in misuse did so to genuinely relieve pain.² As a result, doctors should suggest non-opioid ways to manage pain, like yoga or acupuncture, before writing a prescription.

Fight Abuse With Plan Design

Lost productivity, increased absenteeism and higher health care costs are just a few of the ways employers suffer when their employees engage in substance abuse. Have a solid plan design in place to decrease inappropriate opioid usage.

  • Require prior authorization.
  • Incorporate quantity limits on opioid prescriptions.
  • Require individuals to strictly utilize one pharmacy or health care provider.
  • Ensure that substance abuse treatment coverage is available.

More than 106,000 lives were lost in 2021 from fatal drug overdoses involving prescription opioids.³

Fight Abuse With Education

  • Provide educational resources such as brochures or e-blasts to encourage appropriate use.
  • Educate employees on ways to properly store and dispose of unused opioids so the wrong person does not take them.
  • Include the risks and responsibilities of drugs in the workplace in your employee handbook.


  2. Thompson, Dennis. “Doctors Still Overprescribing Opioids in U.S.” WebMD,
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. 2023, June 30. Overdose Death Rates. Retrieved from


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