Drug Addiction May Be Keeping Millions Of Adults Out Of The Workforce


More than 1 million working age adults are currently missing from the U.S. workforce, and experts are blaming the opioid crisis.

Princeton Economist Alan Krueger released a study this month partially attributing a 20 percent drop in the labor force participation rate for prime age men between 1999 and 2015 to the opioid epidemic. That means there are roughly 1.5 million working age adults who are currently not holding down a job. While no clear reason can be given for the decline, Krueger argues that it is inextricably linked to rising rates of painkiller use, reports NPR.

He found that roughly 47 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 use at least one pain medication, while roughly two-thirds are on a prescription medication in general. The study also notes that labor force declines are more pronounced in regions with higher rates of opioid abuse.

“Labor force participation has fallen more in areas where relatively more opioid pain medication is prescribed, causing the problem of depressed labor force participation and the opioid crisis to become intertwined,” Krueger says in the study. “Prime age men who are out of the labor force report that they experience notably low levels of emotional well-being throughout their days and that they derive relatively little meaning from their daily activities.”

The opioid epidemic is also infiltrating offices across the country. A survey released in March by the National Safety Council reveals that more than 70 percent of workplaces are feeling the negative effects of opioid abuse.

Nearly 40 percent of employers surveyed by the National Safety Council said employees are missing work due to painkiller abuse, with roughly the same percent reporting employees abusing the drugs on the job. Despite the problems opioid abuse is causing in the workplace, many employee drug tests do not look for the substance. Fifty-seven percent of businesses test for drugs, but 41 percent of those businesses do not test for opioids.

A STAT analysis predicts that the annual death toll from opioids will rise by roughly 35 percent between 2015 and 2027. Their research predicts that up to 500,000 people could die from opioids over the next decade. Experts agree that, even in a best-case scenario, the crisis will not visibly start to subside until after 2020.

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