Opioid addiction costs employers $10 billion a year

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Prescription painkillers should not be a first-choice for treating common ailments like back pain and arthritis, according to new federal guidelines designed to reshape how doctors prescribe drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin. Amid an epidemic of addiction and abuse tied to these powerful opioids drugs, the CDC is urging general doctors to try physical therapy, exercise and over-the-counter pain medications before turning to painkillers for chronic pain. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Painkillers can make it difficult for the average person to function. If they’re being abused, the impact can be debilitating, forcing employees to take time off work, and forcing employers to cover the cost.

According to benefits firm “Castlight,” nearly one-third of painkillers funded by employer plans are being abused, and oftentimes, that can either lead to low productivity at work, or not showing up to the office at all. “Castlight” said opioid abuse is costing businesses an average of $10-billion a year in medically related absenteeism, and disability expenses.

Addiction often starts with a prescription. April Mitchell-Edmonds of Springfield told 22News shes refused opioid prescriptions because of their affects. “They give you something in the emergency room and say fill the prescription within three days. No, I don’t want to feel like a zombie, there’s another way to deal with this,” she said.

Many large companies offer behavioral health and addiction benefits as part of their health care plans, but addiction specialist Dr. Ruth Potee told 22News that’s not always enough. “There are very few people out there who do treatment for this. The average physician didn’t learn it during medical school or their residency, yet 10% of Americans are affected by it,” she said.

According to the CDC, nearly 2-million Americans are abusing prescription opioids, resulting in over 16,000 deaths a year.

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