Many of the 21.7 million adults who sought treatment for substance abuse in 2015 were employees struggling to maintain their jobs and livelihood as functioning members of the workforce.

In fact, Connecticut residents are more likely to die from an unintentional drug overdose than a motor vehicle accident, and the majority of these overdose deaths involve prescription opioids, according to the state Department of Health.

But while the latest available data from the National Safety Council shows that 70% of employers report being impacted by prescription drug abuse, roughly 80% of employers say they lack a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.

A similar amount of employers—about 80%—lack training on how to identify substance abuse in their workplaces, data shows.

That's why state health officials addressed the situation through a white paper developed from a series of symposiums the Health Department held in 2017.

Roughly 80% of employers say they lack a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.

The state Department of Health is aware that substance use and abuse in the workplace costs Connecticut employers millions of dollars annually in lost production and time away from work.

Other workplace issues addiction causes include rising healthcare and human resource costs, and the impact that dealing with an addicted worker can have on stress and morale.

The white paper outlines a new set of best practices for identifying workers engaged in or at risk for substance abuse.

The paper also provides recommendations for encouraging workers who need counseling or treatment to seek it, as well as resources and support to help employees overcome their illness and return as a vital member of the workplace.

The white paper is the culmination of more than a year's worth of work by professionals representing public and private employers, insurers, academic researchers, and state agencies.

Employers seeking advice on dealing with the opioid crisis in the workplace, as well as how to address other safety issues, should attend CBIA's 2019 Safety & Health Conference, where Marko Karr, director of safety operations for Bartlett Brainard Eacott, will lead a two-part session featuring a panel of experts discussing various aspects of workplace substance abuse and how to address them.