Chart displaying national drug overdose deaths involving any opioid from 1999 to 2017.
While stigma continues to be a problem in the mental health community in general, attitudes are significantly more negative toward substance use disorder including opioid dependence. One result of this stigma is a failure to seek treatment.2 This is evident in the disability industry as we see a low volume of substance use disorder as a primary diagnosis. Employees who wait a long time to seek care may be in danger of losing their job, and as a result, will no longer qualify for disability benefits. If they do continue to be employed, return to work can pose a challenge due to significant damage to reputation.
Employers are in a unique position to help by using workplace assistance resources to provide support. Ways employers can help include: working to reduce stigma, sharing stories of recovery, using messaging to help their workforce understand the systemic barriers to treatment, ensuring access to proper care for both pain and substance use disorder, and providing return to work support. Opioid use disorder and overdose is a serious crisis in the U.S. But proper comprehensive care and community support can help reverse this trend and return more people to health and productivity.