Effects of the Opioid Crisis on Work Force

Effects of the Opioid Crisis on Work Force

Side Effects of the Opioid Crisis Expand: 20% Decrease in Male Work Force 

The effects of drug addiction are far-reaching, impacting the lives not just of addicts and their families but entire communities. One of the most striking effects of the opioid crisis is the economic damage it has caused.

A study by Alan Krueger of Princeton University suggests that the drug crisis has contributed substantially to a recent drop in labor force participation, especially among men. Overall, the number of men working in the country has dropped by 3.2 percent when compared to 2001. Although there are many reasons for this, the numbers are higher and more concentrated in areas strongly affected by prescription drug abuse. Krueger estimates that up to 20 percent of the decline is directly related to opioid usage.

The Relationship Between Drug Use and Unemployment

The opioid crisis has a two-way relationship with unemployment and poverty. Undoubtedly, people who struggle with addiction will often have a difficult time working. People who are abusing drugs will have poor performance at work or may stop attending altogether. If they enter treatment, they may lose their job if their treatment time away from their job isn’t covered by FMLA. People may pose a danger to themselves or others in some workplaces when attempting to operate machinery or complete other tasks while under the influence.

In some localities where addiction has hit the community especially hard, employers may struggle to find sober employees. Qualified applicants may fail the required drug tests, prohibiting them from getting hired and leaving positions unfilled. This has become such an issue in some areas that some employers have stopped testing applicants for drugs, but filling positions with reliable workers continues to be difficult.

Legal issues compound the problem as well. Those who are recovering from drug addiction may still struggle with finding work, especially if their lifestyle has led to any criminal charges that can damage their records. These are all factors that contribute to the decrease in work force participation among men with drug problems.

The inverse of this problem is also true: People who who struggle to find work may develop addiction as a way of coping with the depression and boredom that accompanies unemployment. Additionally, many people who become addicted to painkillers develop these addictions after taking legally prescribed medication for chronic pain or as a result of an injury. For people who are injured at work, the slippery path toward addiction creates complicated circumstances for recovery and returning to the workforce. This may be one reason that the opioid crisis has disproportionately affected men in the workplace, since men are more likely to hold potentially dangerous manual labor jobs.

Regardless of the reasons, the reality is that many communities across the country have been hit hard by addiction, and these effects stretch beyond the addict and his or her family.

How Addiction Affects the Economy

The decrease in work force participation across the country is just one of many factors that can impact a community affected by addiction. Jobs that cannot be filled safely by sober, qualified workers hurt local economies and can lead to business failures. On an individual basis, the spending habits of addicts also make a big difference.

People who do not have reliable sources of income will generally not participate in the economy, leading to reduced sales and struggling businesses. Because an addict’s first priority is often getting a fix (sometimes just to avoid withdrawal symptoms), he may spend all of his disposable income on drugs rather than other goods. When this becomes a widespread problem due to epidemic levels of drug use, addiction impacts the economy of entire towns and even the country.

Overcoming addiction isn’t easy, but it’s an important step toward healing the damage caused to family, friends and the community. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we can help. Our addiction treatment therapies offer the personalized assistance that people need to overcome not only their addiction but the harmful habits and thought processes that underlie the drug use. By taking this sort of holistic approach, we can help people to overcome their problems and avoid relapse. Contact an addiction professional at Springboard Recovery for more information.


Photo Credit: José Martín Ramírez C