Think your staff is blessedly free from addiction and drug abuse issues? Statistics say you’re probably wrong, especially about the growing opioid crisis.
Maybe an employee takes a stimulant to get through that 12-hour shift. Or pops a prescription pain killer, originally given for a back injury but now used to “feel better.”
Drug abuse in the workplace doesn’t look like it used to. Today, one of the fastest-growing substance misuse categories is actually medication prescribed by a doctor—including the highly addictive opioids.
How do these trends impact your workforce, and what can you do about it?
The statistics are sobering, notes a 2018 report, “How the Prescription Drug Crisis is Impacting American Employers,” published by National Safety Council.
- Unintentional deaths via prescription drugs have quadrupled since 1999.
- 81% of those surveyed lack a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy.
- Most employers don’t feel confident or prepared to handle employee prescription drug misuse.
- Only 24% feel their workplace training about prescription drugs is adequate.
- Almost half of companies that conduct employee drug testing are not testing for synthetic opioids.
In any job sector, employees who are compromised or under the influence can be big risks for excessive absenteeism, tardiness or inattention. But in long-term and post-acute care, the alertness of employees is even more important, since it may impact the safety of the residents they serve—increasing the risk of medical errors, injuries and near-miss events. The access to prescription medications is an additional temptation for employees, especially for nurses and medication managers.
Understanding the impact of the substance abuse crisis on your employees is crucial, yet many HR departments struggle with privacy issues, preferring not to ask employees about their prescription drug use. But, 70% of employers have experienced a problem with an employee and prescription medication, so avoiding the conversation isn’t a healthy corporate strategy.
How HR can improve substance abuse preparedness
- Create company policies based on a drug-free workplace, with details to include prescription drug use from illicit substances.
- Provide training for managers on how to identify the signs of misuse.
- Make frequent announcements and post signs offering free counseling resources and support services for anyone struggling with drug abuse.
- If your state has legalized medical marijuana, be sure your company has a policy that includes it.
- Establish clear back-to-work policies for employees who are prescribed an impairing medication for a certain period.
- Create procedures for how a manager or supervisor should report an employee who appears to be impaired.
- Establish and support processes to help employees with recovery after treatment for a substance misuse event.