Part 3: The Abuse of Opioids Affects the Workforce, not just Individuals. In the Workforce, Men are Twice as likely to Abuse the Use of Opioids than Women.

Opioid Use and the Workforce

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland did their own study concerning the effects on prime-aged (ages 50 to 64) men and women in the workforce and the relationship between prescription rates for opioids and outcomes in the labor market.

Opioids, including prescription pain killers, are widely recognized as the cause of a public health emergency in the United States. Drug overdose has become the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old (Katz (2017))¹, with the increase since 2010 due to opioids like heroin, OxyContin, and fentanyl.² Among the many dimensions of the opioid crisis, policy makers have considerable interest in understanding how the crisis is “related to the decline in labor force participation” (Yellen (2017))³.

Even though geography plays a part in the effects on the workforce, there is a direct correlation between the number of prescriptions for opioids the decrease in employment rates for prime-age men and women by 10%.

Personal Experience

When I was taking opioids for pain, I couldn’t work — partially because of the pain and partially because of the foggy brain. There were times it was difficult to string 3 words together to make a thought, much less a sentence.

I discovered several things without the benefit of studies.

  • Concentration was all but impossible
  • Words were lost — even their meanings
  • Productivity was non-existent
  • Depression set in
  • Anger welled up inside and exploded
  • Boredom set in with a vengeance

In other words, I understand why this study was done and why these were the results.

By the time I was losing words, thank goodness, I was already reducing my intake and gradually weaning myself off the 90mg morphine. Losing words, losing my vocabulary scared me! The inability to complete tasks in a timely manner made me angry. Then came the depression and frustration.

There must be a better way to deal with pain. Together we will find it.

1 Katz, Josh (2017). “Short answers to hard questions about the opioid crisis.” The New York Times. August 3.

2According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine, and many others.” Quinones (2016) provides a timeline of the crisis.

3Yellen, Janet L. (2017). Federal Reserve’s Second Monetary Policy Report for 2017. US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Washington, DC, s. hrg. 115–108 edition. URL

4Aliprantis, Dionissi, Kyle Fee, and Mark E. Schweitzer. 2019. “Opioids and the Labor Market.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper no. 18–07R.

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