New Study Finds One-Third of Employees Abuse Opioids

The current opioid crisis is creating significant costs that affect employers both directly and indirectly, says a new report from Castlight Health, a California health care information company. The report, entitled “The Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce,” was released in early May and indicates that nearly one-third of opioid prescriptions paid for by employers are abused.

Castlight created the report by analyzing medical and prescription claims from nearly one million workers who used its benefit platform between 2011 and 2015. The report states that workers who abuse opioids cost employers an average of approximately $19,450 in medical expenses annually and nonabusers $10,853—about half as much. The report’s findings are not specific to workers’ compensation claims.

About 32% of opioid prescriptions subsidized by American employers are being abused, according to Castlight. The report defined abuse as an employee receiving more than a cumulative 90-day supply of opioids and receiving an opioid prescription from four or more providers between 2011 and 2015.

Kristin Torres Mowat, Castlight’s senior vice president of health plan and strategic data operations said in the report’s release, “From higher spending on health care, to lost productivity, to the dangers associated with employees abusing medications in the workplace, these are aspects of the crisis that are too often overlooked in the current discussion.”

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