Opioids and Your Workplace: A Guide for Small Businesses:

The research is clear: if you have a drug-free workplace policy and an Employee Assistance Program, your employees are less likely to use drugs.[1] Small businesses are less likely to have these policies and programs in place, leaving them more vulnerable to employees with drug problems. Drug use is a growing concern for employers in the midst of a nationwide opioid epidemic that has hit Pennsylvania particularly hard.Almost all large companies check applicants for substance use, but only two-thirds of companies with fewer than 100 employees conduct pre-hire drug tests.[2] a result, small businesses are more attractive to applicants who use drugs, including opioid painkillers and heroin.

Want to create drug-free policy? See our Resource section at the end for tools, tips, and organizations that can help.

Opioid Use Affects Small Businesses More

Not only are small businesses more likely to hire and employ people who abuse opioids, they are also more dramatically affected by the consequences of employees with opioid addiction. Healthcare costs, absenteeism, and turnover—all linked with opioid abuse—are a bigger problem for a small business’s budget and overall ability to function.[3]

The health costs of opioid abuse are large. On average, people with at-risk opioid use (recreational use and addiction) cost employers nearly twice as much in annual healthcare expenses as those without at-risk use.[4]

Opioid abuse increases absenteeism. On average, people with at-risk opioid use are absent three more days per year than other employees.[5]

Opioid abuse leads to turnover. People with addictions are more likely to have had three or more jobs in the past year than the general population.[6]

People with opioid addictions affect their coworkers . Other employees are more likely to quit if they work with a person who has an addiction.[7]

“For small businesses, a bad hire represents a greater proportional cost for the organization than that of large enterprises, since every key employee has a huge impact on the business and its customers.” (Rachel Trindade, Hire Right)

FAQs for Small Business Leaders

I trust my employees. Why should I create a drug-free workplace policy?

Trust is an essential ingredient in working relationships. Fortunately, a drug free workplace policy can help maintain your trust in your employees and help your employees trust you.

A drug free workplace policy allows you to obtain relevant information about employee substance use instead of relying on gossip and hunches. This promotes trust and fair treatment.

Just as importantly, a drug-free workplace policy helps your employees trust you. They know you won’t turn a blind eye to a fellow employee whose substance use is creating a toxic work environment. And they know that your company is willing and able to help if addiction becomes a problem in their lives.

I’m concerned about the costs of an Employee Assistance Program.

EAPs are not expensive. They cost $12-40 per employee each year.[8] Plus, you may save more than you spend. Many studies show that EAPs are cost-effective. For every $1 invested in an EAP, employers can expect a return on investment of $3-6.[9] [10]

We haven’t had any problems with drugs. Why should I be concerned now?

Overdose deaths have risen dramatically in Pennsylvania. We have 14 times the number of overdose deaths today as we did in 1979.[11] This trend shows no signs of slowing down: there was a 23% increase in overdose deaths between 2014 and 2015.[12]

That means there is a significant risk that your employees are now (or will be soon) struggling with addiction to painkillers or heroin. Risk is the likelihood of something going wrong, not about whether it’s happened already.

How do I create a drug-free workplace policy?

Visit Drug Free Workplace PA: https://www.drugfreeworkplacepa.org/

Read SAMHSA’s Drug Free Workplace Toolkit: http://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/toolkit

Protect Your Investment

Small business owners care.  In surveys, small business owners say they are motivated to do what they love and build something new. They place high priority on customers and relationships.

Small business ownership is risky. About half of small businesses keep their doors open for five years. About a third keep them open for ten.[13]

Taking steps to address opioids in your workplace now could make all the difference in the future. Protect your employees, your customers, and your bottom line. Protect your dreams, your energy, and your time. Opioid addiction is a major problem in Pennsylvania, but tools are available to keep your employees safe and healthy.


SAMHSA Drug Free Workplace Toolkit: http://www.samhsa.gov/workplace/toolkit

Drug Free Workplace PA: https://www.drugfreeworkplacepa.org/

[1] Workplace Policies and Programs Concerning Alcohol and Drug Use (2014). Retrieved from: http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-SR169-WorkUsePandPs-2014/NSDUH-SR169-WorkUsePandPs-2014.htm

[2] Hire Right Small Business Spotlight (2014). Retrieved from: http://img.en25.com/Web/HireRightInc/%7Bc0c55674-a3e6-4a54-a766-e73bb5449558%7D_2014_HireRight_Small_Business_Benchmarking_Spotlight.pdf

[3] Ibid.

[4] The opioid crisis in America’s workforce (2016). Retrieved from: https://www.castlighthealth.com/ 

[5] Hasselt, M. V., Keyes, V., Bray, J., & Miller, T. (2015). Prescription Drug Abuse and Workplace Absenteeism: Evidence from the 2008–2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 30(4), 379-392.

[6] Save Your Company Money By Assuring Accessing to Substance Abuse Treatment (2008). Retrieved from: http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content//SMA08-4350/SMA08-4350.pdf

[7] Toxic Employees in the Workplace: Hidden Costs and How to Spot Them (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.cornerstoneondemand.com/sites/default/files/thank-you/file-to-download/csod-wp-toxic-employees-032015_0.pdf

[8] Selecting and Strengthening Employee Assistance Programs: A Purchaser’s Guide (2009) Retrieved from: https://www.easna.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/EASNA-PURCHSERS-GUIDE-TO-EAPs-FINAL-102209.pdf

[9] Ibid.

[10] Hargrave, G. E., Hiatt, D., Alexander, R., & Shaffer, I. A. (2008). EAP Treatment Impact on Presenteeism and Absenteeism: Implications for Return on Investment. Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health, 23(3), 283-293.

[11] Balmert, L. C., Buchanich, J. M., Pringle, J. L., Williams, K. E., Burke, D. S., & Marsh, G. M. (2016). Patterns and Trends in Accidental Poisoning Deaths: Pennsylvania’s Experience 1979-2014. PLOS ONE, 11(3).

[12] Analysis of Drug-Related Overdose Deaths in Pennsylvania (2015). Retrieved from: https://www.dea.gov/divisions/phi/2016/phi071216_attach.pdf

[13] Small Business Administration Frequently Asked Questions (2012). Retrieved from: https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/FAQ_Sept_2012.pdf