As we mentioned in previous blogs, the National Center for Health and Statistics reports that in 2016 more than 63,000 people died from drug overdoses. Alarmingly this number continues to increase with no end in sight as prescription opioid use has reached staggering levels. Opioids include prescribed painkillers like morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. Although many people are introduced to these drugs through legal and medical means, after their prescription is terminated, many people find themselves in the throes of an addiction that leads to them turning to heroin and other more accessible opioids. In fact, studies predict that around 23% of those prescribed to opioids will develop a heroin addiction.

As providers of affordable, confidential, and professional alcohol and drug testing services, this is an issue we follow closely and we want to do all we can to help remediate this crisis and ensure that our partners keep their workplaces safe and free of drug abuse. If you are in the Houston area and are in need of professional services and drug screenings, contact us!

The Effects of Drug Abuse in the Workplace

As we mentioned, many opioid addictions begin with prescribed medications. Regardless of whether the injury that precipitated the prescription happened in the workplace or outside, this addiction can have a drastic effect on the employee’s performance and abilities. Because of the drowsiness, fatigue, depression, and general disengagement that often accompanies opioid addictions, employees typically struggle to fulfill their job duties, accomplish goals, and—depending on the occupational hazards and work environment—they also pose an immediate threat to their own health as well as the health of those around them.

If you are an employer who has yet to refine and adjust your company’s drug policy to match the unique threats presented by the opioid epidemic, now is the time. Although no one has a flawless approach for most effectively dealing with drug abuse in the workplace, there are a number of things that can be done to improve the drug testing and counseling programs within the workplace. Seeking resources and information and professional services to help address this problem can drastically help to keep employees and the workplace safe, as well as keep businesses operating optimally. Specifically, to help minimize the impact of drug abuse in the workplace, it is key for employers to focus on education, prevention, and facilitating professional counseling and support.

Below are a few things employers should consider when reforming their drug policies.

Foster an environment where employees can disclose information

Two key components of this suggestion are genuine support and education. If you are able to make these the pillars of your drug policy, you can create an environment that is conducive to employees feeling like they can be honest and get help, rather than hide their addiction up until the point when they no longer can work or they cause a workplace accident. With education, aim to not only convey the full extent of painkiller abuse but also make it clear that you can support their efforts to get clean with the help of substance abuse treatment and return to work programs.

Keep a close eye on workers’ compensation claims

The main point of this suggestion is to ensure that carriers are not opting for the “conservative” treatment, which might entail opioid prescriptions, rather than treating the injury in a more aggressive, less palliative way. Monitoring this can help make sure that carriers are not prescribing opioids simply as a way to reduce the financial impact of workers’ compensation claims.  

Consider modifying zero-tolerance drug testing policies

If an employee fails a drug test and then immediately loses his or her job, chances are their addiction is only going to worsen. For these reasons, it can be helpful to reexamine how you handle drug screenings. For example, amending your drug testing policy so that rather than immediately being terminated, employees who fail their drug tests are required to attend counseling and be cleared by a professional return to work program. Having this type of policy will also help create a more honest workplace environment, where employees will feel comfortable reporting addictions, which also means preventing drug-related workplace accidents.

If you are in the Houston area and in need of professional drug and alcohol evaluations, contact us! We also provide Houston substance abuse treatment. Learn more about us and call us with any questions.