Thursday, October 3, 2013

Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse at Work

Prescription drug overdoses now account for more accidental deaths in the U.S. than do automobile incidents, and according to CDC, more than 12 million U.S. residents used prescription painkillers for non-medicinal purposes during the past year. Many individuals who abuse prescription drugs are employed, and employers in all industries need to be aware of the effects this problem can have on worker safety and productivity.

To address this emerging issue, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention has established a Technical Assistance Center on the Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse in the Workplace (the PAW TA Center). The PAW TA Center is currently gathering information and developing training resources including fact sheets, issue briefs, prevention tools and web capabilities, as well as a listserv allowing subscribers to access relevant articles and other information.

The PAW TA Center's research has revealed that in 2007, prescription narcotic abuse cost employers almost $26 billion because employees were less productive while at work or did not work at all when under the influence of prescription drugs.

Additionally, employees who abuse drugs are 2 to 5 times more likely than other employees to:

  • Take unexcused absences;
  • Be late for work;
  • Quit or be fired within a year of employment;
  • Be involved in workplace incidents; and
  • File workers' compensation claims.
To prevent prescription drug misuse at work, the PAW TA Center offers the following tips to employers:

  • Educate employees about health and productivity issues related to prescription drug abuse.
  • Incorporate information about substance abuse into workplace wellness programs.
  • Offer health benefits that provide coverage for substance abuse disorders.
  • Expand drug testing to include prescription drugs.
  • Publicize drug-free workplace policies and incorporate guidelines regarding prescription drugs.
  • Provide employee assistance programs, wellness programs and work-life programs that include information and services related to substance abuse prevention, treatment and return to work issues.
  • Train managers to recognize and respond to substance abuse issues so problems can be addressed in uniform, cost-effective and business-sensitive ways. 
Find more information about preventing prescription drug abuse in the workplace here.