According to studies, prescription opioid abuse alone costs employers more than $25 billion a year. Prescription medication addiction leads to the use of more sick days and worker’s compensation benefits. Employee productivity is also dramatically affected by opioid abuse. 

Still, many employers aren’t testing for prescription opioids. According to Quest Diagnostics, only 13 percent of nearly 6.5 million workplace drug tests screen for prescription opioids.   

Drug testing for prescription opioids is one way to help create a drug free workplace, but educating your employees about prescription opioid medication is also important. What should they know? Read on to find out. 

How to be safe about opioid use.

Discuss with employees the importance of storing opioid medications securely. Preferably these medications should be under lock and key- not just stored in a desk at work. Once an employee has finished taking an opioid painkiller it should be disposed of safely, never saved for later use and certainly not given to a family member or friend. The majority of people who abuse these drugs obtain them from friends or relatives.

Be sure to let your employees know the risks of mixing these medications with sedatives, alcohol, or other psychotherapeutic medications. They should also discuss with their prescriber whether they are at risk for any drug interactions.

Employees should inform their employers when prescribed opioid medications.

Be careful here, because the prescriber-patient relationship is confidential. Even so, it is your right as an employer to be informed when a prescriber has recommended that your employee take an opioid painkiller. Once informed, discuss with employees the concerns you have about opioid use in the workplace. Employees should then work with their prescriber to determine whether a non-opioid prescription is an option.

Opioid medications may affect their work.

You should have a clear policy on potential impairment from prescription medications and your employees should know about it. 

Make job descriptions available to your employees so that they may share them with medical providers. These descriptions may help these providers determine if opioid medication is appropriate for someone in their role.

Their driving may be impaired.

Look out, because even if your medication is legitimately prescribed, driving while under its influence could earn you a DUI. State law does vary, but for the majority of states this holds true. Opioid prescription information provides warnings on the potential impact on driving or using heavy equipment while taking medications. These should be read carefully.

Opioid prescriptions may alter your judgement, impair coordination, reduce muscle strength, and create confusion and tremors, and these effects are worsened when medication is used in conjunction with alcohol. 

Encourage employees to seek help for dependency and addiction. 

It’s easier than you’d think to become dependent on opioid medications. You may experience negative side effect when you stop taking these medications, which can serve as motivation to continue taking them. At this point, it is important to work with a physician to decide whether to make a change in dosage or to discontinue use altogether.

Employees should turn to the company’s Employee Assistance Program or their medical provider for education on the difference between dependency and addiction, as well as the importance of intervention before developing a serious addiction. 

Sources:”Steps Employers Can Take to Ensure Their Workplace Is Recovery Friendly.”PsycEXTRA Dataset. Web.