(303) 369-3200

Wednesday, 26 July 2017 11:35

Do’s and Don’ts around Opiates in the Workplace

Written by
Rate this item
(1 Vote)
Opiate addiction is a major issue in the U.S., most of which originates from prescription opiates, which are surprisingly easy to obtain. In fact, an estimated 207 million prescriptions for opiates were dispensed in 2013 alone. Prescription opiate abusers are far more likely to eventually develop an addiction to an illicit drug (such as heroin) addiction than a non-opiate abuser, as heroin will offer a similar high at a cheaper price. 

Deaths from prescription opiate painkillers outnumber deaths from all illicit drugs combined. Some examples of opiates include Heroin, Morphine, Oxycodone (trade names include: OxyContin and Percocet), Hydrocodone (trade names include: Vicodin and Lortab), Codeine and Fentanyl. 

Signs that someone may be abusing an opiate include:

  • Noticeable elation/euphoria
  • Marked sedation/drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Constricted pupils
  • Slowed breathing
  • Intermittent nodding off, or loss of consciousness
  • Constipation
  • Doctor shopping (getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors)
  • Shifting or dramatically changing moods
  • Extra pill bottles in the trash
  • Social withdrawal/isolation
  • Sudden financial problems

Withdrawal symptoms can mimic flu symptoms and include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Inability to sleep

What You Shouldn’t Ask

Compliments of SHRM, this next section includes specific questions NOT TO ask – see full source link at the end of this article. While it’s good to be aware of the signs of substance abuse, here are some questions you should refrain from posing to employees or job candidates.

“Are you addicted to drugs?”

Many signs of addiction are similar to symptoms of sleep problems or other conditions. If you falsely accuse someone of having a substance abuse problem, you’ll be violating the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
For employees who aren’t in dangerous jobs, “it doesn’t matter whether they are taking a prescription medicine,” says Kathryn Russo, a shareholder in law firm Jackson Lewis’ Long Island, N.Y., office. “If they’re falling asleep at their desks, then just address the performance issue.”
However, employers should have a provision in their drug and alcohol policies that requires employees in safety-sensitive positions, such as forklift operators, to notify HR if they are taking prescription medication or over-the-counter medication that may impair their ability to do their jobs safely, she says.

“Why are you taking that medication?”

An employee doesn’t need to disclose that information. However, if a worker notifies his employer that he is taking a prescription drug or over-the-counter drug that could impair his ability to do his job safely, the ADA requires the employer to have an interactive dialogue with the worker to determine what reasonable accommodations can be made or whether the worker poses a “direct threat” to the health or safety of himself or others. Perhaps the worker’s job duties can be modified temporarily.
“Alcoholics and recovering or recovered drug abusers are protected as disabled” under the ADA, Russo says. If an employee comes forward and admits he is addicted, you should treat him the same way you would treat someone with cancer or diabetes. “Substance abuse is an illness,” she says. If the employee says he wants help, offer him medical leave, she suggests. However, to receive ADA protection, the employee must admit his addiction prior to being selected for a drug test or violating a policy. 

“Before we offer you the job, can you take a drug test?”

Pre-employment drug tests should be conducted only after a job offer has been made to ensure that the employer doesn’t inadvertently become privy to a candidate’s medical information. In addition, Russo recommends that all employers use independent medical review officers to investigate positive drug test results so that employers don’t see private medical information and become tempted to make clinical judgments they’re not qualified to make.

How You Can Help

Here’s how you can take a proactive role in fighting the prescription opioid epidemic:
  • Re-Evaluate your company policy and testing for prescription drugs 
  • Educate your workforce about the risks of prescription opioid painkillers 
  • Train supervisors to recognize signs of potential impairment and understand the company drug-testing policy 
  • Promote your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
If you do not have an EAP in place, please reach out to your Client Manager here to learn more about the benefits it provides to you and your employees. 
Read 1191 times Last modified on Wednesday, 26 July 2017 12:17
Juliet Fitzgibbons

Juliet joins Fall River as an Account Executive and brings over 15 years of prior broker and account management experience. Her experience brings extensive knowledge on employee benefit programs, account management and creative cost-saving strategies and compliance solutions for employers of various sizes.

She is responsible for new business proposals, client renewals including plan benchmarking, rate analysis and mid-year reviews. She helps clients navigate healthcare systems and educates employers and employees through open enrollment meetings and day-to-day service requests. Juliet joined Fall River in 2015.