Dealing with prescription drug use in the workplace
Prescription drug abuse has become a significant problem in the U.S. workforce. A 2014 study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute found that 65 to 85 percent of injured workers received narcotic painkillers as part of their treatment. According to the National Safety Council, 23 percent of American workers have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
Hiring managers may assume any form of substance abuse is caught during a typical five-panel drug test, but the NSC recommends expanding drug screening procedures to include opioids and benzodiazepines, a pair of drug compounds generally not found in a standard test.
Opioids, a group of drugs that include oxycodone and morphine, are prescribed by doctors to relieve pain, and may include Vicodin, OxyContin, Percoset, morphine and codeine. Benzodiazepines, meanwhile, are depressant drugs used in the treatment of stress, anxiety and alcohol withdrawal. Opioid addiction can negatively impact worker safety, health and productivity, as well as increase workers’ compensation costs. Use of the highly addictive drugs can also result in side effects such as confusion, drowsiness and nausea.
Addressing opioids in the workplace is critical in industries requiring alertness or where heavy machinery is operated. Outside the danger to co-workers, injured employees prescribed even one opioid have average total claim costs four times greater than claims from workers not taking any prescribed opioids.
Companies updating their drug policies should be able to answer the following questions:
*What drugs can I test for, and what types of tests are available to me?
*Who is allowed to know the results of a drug test?
*Will an applicant test positive for drugs if they're around someone who is using drugs?
Any workplace drug-testing program should comply with local, state and federal laws, the NSC notes. The council is urging employers to be proactive in addressing opioid addiction risks on site. Among its recommendations:
*Educate workers about hazards associated with prescription pain medication use, highlighting in particular the risks of combining opioids with alcohol or sleep aids, or using pain medications while suffering from sleep apnea and other respiratory issues
* Require network providers to use opioid prescribing guidelines set forth by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
*Require providers to utilize state prescription drug monitoring programs
*Screen injured employees for depression, mental health conditions and current or prior substance use
OPENonline is a trusted source for comprehensive background screenings. For more information, visit our website.