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It is important to get your “Dose of Reality” about the risks and dangers of using prescription painkillers, as well as the signs of misuse, before it becomes a problem for you or your loved ones.

A National Epidemic

Prescription painkiller misuse affects workers from all industries and all types of jobs. It is therefore important for employers and human resources professionals to understand the negative impacts of opioid addiction, and what they can do about it. More than 70% of employers have experienced at least one incident in their workforce related to prescription drug use. Encouragingly, 70% also report wanting to help their employees.

As an employer, you have committed resources into finding, hiring, and training the best people you can. Protect your business by educating employees on the risks of prescription painkillers and helping those who may be suffering from addiction. When an employee has an opportunity to seek help for addiction and, in turn, keep his or her job, it benefits both the employee and the employer. Erase the stigma of opioid addiction by offering your employees support and resources.

How Does Opioid Misuse Impact Your Business?

Want to calculate how much prescription drug abuse, and substance abuse generally, is costing your organization? Try this National Safety Council Tool.

What Employers Can Do

First, consult your human resources professional and/or legal counsel before you do anything. This is where civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and many state protections come into play. Although federal and state laws limit your options in addressing prescription drug use in the workplace, that doesn’t mean you can afford to do nothing.

Here Are Some Steps For Employers to Take

Evaluate or re-evaluate your company’s drug policy

Your company has the right to provide a drug-free workplace. However, your drug-free workplace policy might only currently address illegal drugs. With the increased use of opioid (or narcotic) prescription painkillers, you can revisit these policies and update them in tandem with human resources and legal counsel.

However, consider revising your policy with treatment in mind, focusing on recovery and retention. Offer support, resources, and open communication rather than implementing a zero-tolerance policy. Retention benefits both the employer and the employee, putting them in the best situation to seek help and pursue treatment.

Also, consider employee-sponsored treatment; please review SAMHSA’s Drug-Free Workplace Toolkit to see how government can help provide employers with the support they need to develop and maintain successful drug-free policies for their workplace.

Consider including prescription medications in your company’s drug testing program

Drug tests can be perceived as being highly intrusive, but they can be invaluable tools for preventing drug-related incidents and reducing risk, according to the National Safety Council. In several safety-sensitive industries, in addition to the industry-standard Department of Transportation panel, employers are also testing for prescription medications such as barbiturates (pentobarbital, butabarbital), benzodiazepines (alprazolam, diazepam), synthetic opiates (hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxycodone), propoxyphene (although this drug is no longer manufactured), and methadone. A relatively new trend is also the addition of buprenorphine (suboxone).

Educate employees about the dangers of prescription painkiller use and misuse

According to the National Safety Council, employees should know:

Train supervisors and managers

Make sure supervisors and managers know the company’s current drug-free workplace and drug-testing policies and any updates as they are made. Train them to recognize the potential signs of drug impairment, and the proper steps to take if they suspect an employee is impaired. This includes keeping naloxone on-site and training employees to use it if they suspect someone is experiencing an overdose. Naloxone is a Food and Drug Administration approved medication designed to reverse an opioid overdose while you wait for emergency medical help to arrive.

Consider use of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) are programs that offer employees up to three confidential counseling sessions on a wide range of health issues. Also, consider offering health benefits that provide comprehensive coverage for substance use disorders, including aftercare and counseling.

Resources

Materials

Download and print Dose of Reality materials specially designed for the Florida business community.