Weekly Training Tip: Opioid Addiction in the Workplace - Grace Hill
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Weekly Training Tip:
Opioid Addiction in the Workplace

Posted on June 28, 2018


Grace Hill Training Tip of the Week

Dealing with Opioid Addiction in the Workplace


Addition to prescribed pain medication has increased in the workplace

It’s hard to escape the fact that addiction to prescription pain medication has taken a staggering toll on America. Opioid addiction is likely one of the main factors contributing to a decline in overall life expectancy in the US, a rare trend in developed countries.


It’s an alarming trend that has touched just about every aspect of life, including work. Up to 75% of those with addiction issues are in the workforce, and according to a survey from the National Safety Council around 70% of employers have seen some impact of prescription drug use on their workforce.


From impaired job performance, work injuries, absenteeism, a decrease in productivity, medical expenses, and arrests, there are many negative side effects of opioid abuse that impact employers and employees.


As with any substance-abuse problem, changes in behavior may signify someone has a problem. Signs to look out for which may indicate opioid abuse include:

  • Periodic short absences
  • Increase in frequency of absenteeism
  • Drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Mood swings
  • Napping at work



Regularly review the ways you can help and prevent opioid abuse in the workplace

What about workplace drug-testing? Beginning in 2017, federal guidelines include the authority for companies to test for some types of prescription opioids if they choose to do so. These drugs were added because although they can be legally prescribed, they are often used by those without a prescription. Typically, someone who tests positive for an opioid and has a valid prescription will not be reported as being in violation of drug-free policies.


Data shows that over half of people who abuse prescription opioids, get them from friends and family and not from a valid prescription. Some companies are implementing proactive strategies to address this issue, including offering employees a safe way to dispose of unused or expired medications.



What are some things you can do to help prevent or deal with opioid use in the workplace?

  • Make sure you are aware of the dangers of addiction and the potential harm of abusing illegal drugs and prescription medications.
  • Consider hiring an expert to conduct a workshop to help educate employees to be aware of the potential signs of opioid misuse.  
  • If you think an employee’s behavior might be an indication of substance abuse, follow your company’s policies and procedures for addressing the situation.
  • Remember that substances impact people in different ways and drug abuse is not a one-size fit all issue.
  • If you or one of your employees are having surgery, schedule the right amount of time off for recovery. Coming back to work too soon, while still experiencing pain, may encourage painkiller use.


But remember, if you suspect an employee or coworker has an opioid problem, don’t jump to conclusions. Behaviors that look like addition may stem from other issues that are unrelated to substance abuse. Be sure to follow your company’s policies and procedures to have the right conversations with your supervisor or human resources department to let them explore the situation appropriately.



Terra McVoy
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