Each day, 46 people die from an overdose of prescription painkillers in the U.S. Additionally, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.1
Close to 19,000 people fatally overdose on opioids each year, which has caused poisonings to overtake motor vehicle crashes as the no. 1 cause of unintentional death among adults in the U.S.2
“Drug poisonings, largely from opioid painkillers, now eclipse car crashes as the leading cause of preventable death among adults. Nearly half of Americans are personally impacted by prescription drug addiction, with 44% knowing someone who is addicted to a prescription pain reliever. Seventy-five percent of those struggling with a substance use disorder are in the workforce, revealing a hidden epidemic that many employers are struggling to address.”3
Key findings from the employer survey conducted by the National Safety Council3 include:
- 81% of respondents’ policies are lacking at least one critical element of an effective drug-free workplace program.
- 88% are interested in their insurer covering alternatives to pain relief treatment so that employees can avoid taking opioids.
- 70% would like to help employees struggling with prescription drug misuse return to their positions after completing treatment.
Painkiller Prescriptions by State
Why are Opioid Painkillers Risky?
People who take opioid painkillers for too long and in doses too large are more at risk of addiction and more likely to die of drug poisoning. Opioids are being overprescribed. According to National Safety Council, four out of five new heroin users started by misusing prescription painkillers.4
Who is At Risk of Addiction?
Research5 indicates that certain factors increase risk, such as:
- Personal or family history of addiction or substance abuse
- Depression or anxiety
- Long-term use of prescription opioids
- Taking or using multiple drugs, especially drugs for anxiety, depression or other mental health issues
“Addiction should be viewed as a treatable chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease rather than (as) a moral failing. Some people may be more susceptible to addiction due to genetic factors. Organizations that handle this well provide support through their employee assistance programs by offering access to counseling and recovery services that may include medication-assisted treatment, when appropriate.” said Gregory Eigner, MD, FAAFP, USPM Board of Directors.
What Can You Do
- Avoid taking prescription painkillers more often than prescribed.
- Dispose of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done, and avoid keeping prescription painkillers or sedatives around “just in case.”
- Help prevent misuse and abuse by not selling or sharing prescription drugs. Never use another person’s prescription drugs.
- Talk to your children about proper use of prescription medicines.
- Get help for substance abuse problems at 1-800-662-HELP. Call Poison Help 1-800-222-1222 if you have questions about medicines.
The National Safety Council provides a free Prescription Drug Employer Kit to help employers establish policies and manage opioid use at work. To request the kit, visit http://safety.nsc.org/rxemployerkit.
For more resources about prescription drug abuse, visit nsc.org/rxpainkillers.