You’ve probably heard that opioid addictions are a huge problem, but did you know that they are also taking a toll on workplaces across the country? Opioid medications are powerful, addictive drugs that can seriously impair a person’s judgement at work and at home. When opioid doses creep higher, so do instances of workplace accidents, employee errors, and on-the-job injuries. Even when taken exactly as prescribed, these drugs can have dangerous unintended consequences. We’ve put together some guidelines to help managers and business owners identify opioid addiction at work, protect their employees, and keep their businesses running safely and efficiently.
The Consequences Of Opioid Addiction At Work
Four years ago, in 2014, almost 2 million Americans were addicted to or dependent upon prescription opioid painkillers. Since then, those numbers have continued to increase. According to the CDC, primary healthcare providers prescribe over half of all opioid medications. Since many people receive prescription opioid medications to cope with workplace injuries, it is crucial that employers understand how to manage this growing issue.
According to the National Safety Council, costly opioid painkillers can also significantly increase workers compensation costs, lengthen disability periods, and dramatically decrease employee productivity. While the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees’ use of legitimately prescribed opioid medication, there are still steps that employers can take to reduce risk.
Even employees who have legitimate prescriptions for opioids may still struggle with dependence or addiction. As the opioid crisis worsens and the impacts of opioid addiction at work become more common, many companies have begun to recognize the massive toll that this dependency can have on workplace safety, productivity, and efficiency.
Have A Clear Policy
Over the next few years, corporate drug-free workplace policies should adapt to address the growing prevalence of prescription opioid painkillers. Now might be the time to revisit your policy and make sure it’s up to date. A good company policy will acknowledge the need for prescription medications when taken in recommended doses and according to a physician’s directions. It may also require employees to consult with their doctor and pharmacist about the potential side effects of the drug, and to inform their supervisor if an opioid addiction threatens their job performance.
Your company policy should also explicitly stipulate that intentional misuse or abuse of prescription medications violates standards.
Educate Your Employees
Although any interactions between employees and their physicians are strictly confidential, it’s important to open up the conversation about opioid addiction at work and make your staff members aware of the risks posed by opioid use. Make sure employees understand that these drugs can alter their judgement, impair their perception and coordination, reduce muscle strength, and even create a mental fog that makes it difficult to safely perform everyday tasks like driving a vehicle or operating equipment.
Workplace campaigns should also provide practical steps that employees can take to reduce opioid misuse at home and at work. Here are a few important reminders:
- Opioid prescriptions should be stored securely in a lockbox or safe
- Leftover opioid medications should be disposed of at a safe disposal location in the community, not kept for future use
- Opioid medications should never be mixed with alcohol, sedatives, or most psychotherapeutic drugs
- Opioid medications should only be used by the person to whom the prescription was issued, and should never be shared between friends, family members, or co-workers
Train Your Supervisors
People who are taking opioid medications can become addicted more quickly than they realize or anticipate. Training supervisors and managers to look out for the signs of opioid addiction is a hands-on way to reduce risk and promote involvement. Remember that addiction can affect anyone, no matter their age or gender.
Employees who have previously participated in addiction treatment programs are at a higher risk of opioid abuse, as are those who have a personal or family history of addiction. Common psychiatric issues like depression, anxiety and PTSD, as well as trauma from domestic or sexual abuse, also play a huge role in opioid addiction. Here are some physical signs to watch out for:
- Agitation and irritability
- Panic attacks and generalized anxiety
- Sensitivity to sensory stimuli (such as bright lights or loud noises)
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pains and difficulty breathing
- High blood pressure
- Nausea and decreased appetite
- Low motivation
- Mental confusion
Supervisors should be trained to notice these symptoms in their employees. If they suspect opioid abuse may be at play, they’re prepared to start a conversation about the impact these drugs might be having on workplace safety.
Opioid crisis is a serious problem, and effective community-based treatments are the solution. The addiction professionals at CARUS Recovery have years of experience addressing substance abuse at home and at work. Our residential treatment programs help people from all walks of life conquer drug dependencies and lead healthy, productive lives. To learn more about our services, please call us at 877-225-7774 or schedule an appointment online.