The Right and Wrong Way for Employers to Approach Opioid Issues in the Workplace


opioid workplace abuse

In a 2019 survey from the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 75 percent of employers say their workplace has been affected by opioid use in one way or another. What’s more, only 17 percent of those surveyed said they were prepared to deal with the issue, shining a light on the need to seek out education around the epidemic and how to best help employees suffering from use.

From impaired job performance to missing out on work to legal trouble, there are several negative outcomes from drug use that impact employers and their relationships with employees. So, what’s the best way to handle the issue and curb use, promote awareness, and stay away from discouraging employees?

The Risks of Mishandling Opioid Issues

One of the best things for employers to know is that there are wrong ways to approach opioid use in the workplace or among employees. This can not only help improve their awareness of the issue and help to better understand where their employees are coming from but it can also help protect them from major liabilities and claims.

Employers should be encouraged to get in touch with legal counsel and consider workplace drug policies in terms of their legalities. If an employee is suspected of misusing opioids, they may feel they are being unfairly targeted or that their prescribed use may be looked at as a problem when in fact it’s not. If employers are too aggressive in their handling of the issue it can spark costly claims and potential lawsuits for being unfairly suspected or treated.

While having employment practices liability insurance can help provide the right resources to keep these legal and financial losses low, it helps to approach employees with more understanding and communication so nothing is misinterpreted.

Identify Warning Signs

From drowsiness to slurred speech, there are a number of potential signs that should ring some alarm bells among employers. Unfortunately there is only a small number of employers who offer training on this topic. Businesses should consider hiring an expert to offer workshops or webinars to help educate human resource professionals and employees on what to look for when evaluating if someone appears to be misusing or under the influence of opioids.

Medication Collection

More than 240 million prescriptions are being written every year, according to the NSC. This brings to light questions surroundings expired and unused prescription drugs circulating and what to do with them. An employee’s own medicine cabinet can be their own worst enemy, filled with these drugs and promoting temptation to use them past their usage date.

One way this can be curbed is to offer employees a way to dispose of unused and expired drugs through medication mail back envelopes. These medication roundups can help to encourage correct usage and put an emphasis on getting rid of the potential for misuse.

Drug Testing

Employers are expanding their drug testing to include semi-synthetic drugs, including prescription pills like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and oxymorphone on top of traditionally screened drugs like heroin and morphine. This is a legal move that employers can make in most states, so as long as the employer does not take adverse actions against the employee when drugs are found in their system but for legal reasons. Employers should work with a medical review board in the drug testing process to help determine lawful drug use.


workplace, Opioids, Opioids in the Workplace

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