More than 30 states are reporting increases in opioid related overdoses and those from other drugs during the pandemic, particularly involving fentanyl, according to the American Medical Association.
The government has taken steps to curb deaths during the pandemic by allowing for more flexibility in prescribing medications for opioid use disorder and lifting other restrictions on pain medications.
Meanwhile, the National Safety Council is calling on businesses to get ready for an increase in substance misuse in the workplace.
“Employers not only have a responsibility, they have a call to arms here to make sure as they bring employees back to work, that they are directly addressing their mental health and providing them the resources that they need to be able to navigate,” said Lorraine Martin, President of the National Safety Council. “It’s just as important as the PPE and sanitization for hygiene that we will all need to have when we come back to work.”
Martin recognizes mental health and substance misuse are often interconnected.
Now, with the additional stress and unrest related to George Floyd’s death on top of COVID-19, people may be self-medicating even more.
The National Safety Council put out resources and tools to help businesses help struggling employees, but they believe the most important thing leaders can do is talk about it.
“The most mature companies are addressing this head on,” said Martin. “We know that substance misuse is a disease, not a decision, and if you can come at it with that attitude and make sure you create that safe space for your employees, that can make all the difference.”
Not addressing substance misuse is a serious threat to worker safety and costs a lot of money in terms of productivity, absenteeism and workers compensation claims.
On the other hand, employees that work through these issues with their employer often come out on the other side more loyal and productive.