Practical Ways Employers Can Address the Opioid Crisis
Written By Lucas Kibby
If you think our nation’s opioid epidemic could never affect your workplace, think again.
More than 70 percent of U.S. employers report feeling a direct impact of prescription drug misuse in their workplaces, according to a survey by the National Safety Council (NSC).
From impaired job performance to absenteeism and arrests, what are some practical ways employers can help curb this epidemic?
Learn to identify warning signs
There are several signs employers should be aware of when trying to determine if an employee is abusing opioids. However, the NSC survey found that a mere 13 percent of U.S. employers claim to be very confident that their workers could identify signs of opioid misuse in a colleague. Despite this, only 24 percent of survey respondents said they offer employee training on this important topic.
Check for these basic signs:
- Slurred speech
- Unsteady standing or walking
- Inability or difficulty completing routine tasks
- Disorientation or confusion
- Erratic or unusual behavior
Consider requiring all managers and human resource professionals to take a reasonable suspicion training class to get educated on what to look for and what they should do when they think someone may be abusing drugs or opioids.
Consider legalities of workplace drug policies
Employers should also carefully consider the legalities of workplace drug policies when they suspect an employee is suffering from opioid abuse. From confronting employees who may have a prescription drug problem to implementing drug testing policies, there are several important legal issues to consider so that companies do not put themselves at risk for litigation.
In light of the opioid epidemic the country is currently facing, now is an optimal time to revisit workplace drug policies. The NSC survey found that an astonishing 81 percent of U.S. employers were missing a critical element in their workplace drug policies. From lacking clarity on issues such as employee use of prescription drugs at work, to return to work policies for employees taking impairing medications, the survey revealed several alarming oversights within the vast majority of workplace drug policies.
Promoting medication collection
Opioid prescriptions are multiplying at an astounding rate. More than 240 million prescriptions were written for opioids in one year, according to a study from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.
Unfortunately, many of these medications are getting into the hands of unintended recipients. An alarming 50.5 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs receive them from friends or family for free, according to data from the National Survey for Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).
One simple way to help curb the opioid epidemic is by offering employees a convenient and environmentally friendly way to dispose of unused and expired prescriptions through medication mail-back envelopes. These pre-paid, pre-addressed envelopes remove medications from employees’ homes and prevent opportunities for prescription drug abuse.
Employers provide the employees with the envelopes, employees take the home to gather up their unwanted medications, place the unwanted medications in the envelope, place them in the mail. The envelopes are returned to a facility authorized to receive them and properly destroy the medications in a controlled environment ensuring complete destruction.