Opioids' effect on the workplace

We've all heard the stories of opioid abuse and addiction among celebrities, such as Rush Limbaugh, Prince, Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger. But addiction to these powerful painkillers can hit much closer to home—a Harvard School of Public Health report shows at least two in five Americans say they personally know someone who has abused prescription painkillers during the past five years. And it is not uncommon for physicians to prescribe opioids to those in the construction industry to help relieve chronic pain.

Opioids include oxycodone (trade name OxyContin); hydrocodone (trade name Vicodin); codeine, morphine, fentanyl and heroin.

The National Safety Council warns opioids may cause impairment and "increase the risk of workplace incidents, errors and injury even when taken as prescribed." In addition, opioids can increase workers' compensation costs and lengthen recovery time after injuries, increasing the amount of lost work time.

According to Bloomberg BNA, a 2011 Pain Medicine study determined prescription opioid abuse can cause more than $25 billion in lost workplace productivity in the U.S.