Prescription Drugs can be a Workplace Problem Too

Despite the obvious statistical difficulties in looking at American information about drug abuse and applying them to the Australian situation, some common facts remain — and they provide cause for alarm.

80% of American workplaces report prescription drug abuse

Are we headed the same way?

The key to the problem is that these drugs themselves are legal and prescribed for a health-restorative purpose. Their misuse is the problem. And the most commonly abused drugs are opioid painkillers.

Effects range from progressively increasing impairment to illness, even death. The onset can be insidious. For instance, pills needed to relieve a headache can be used to excess — until the body demands them, by for instance inflicting headaches until it gets its opioid fix.

Victims can become increasingly addicted, some to the extent of going ‘doctor shopping’ (not easily done) so they can get multiple prescriptions. Others may turn to drug dealers or colleagues ‘in the know’.

The impact of prescription drug abuse can be: reduced productivity, drowsiness, impaired motor skills, increased unreliability and unpunctuality, increasing sick leave, overuse of workers’ compensation benefits — eventual followed by the HR difficulties associated with dismissal.

Another difficulty for management is the time taken to detect prescription drug abuse, despite its potential effects on brain function, productivity and safety.

The problem’s relatively low profile makes early and defined detection difficult. However, not all Managers know that quality drug screening equipment can detect significant levels of pain killers (eg. Codeine is opiate based). Whilst use of these prescription drugs is not illegal for workers, their abuse can lead to health and safety impacts on workplaces. Accordingly management needs to monitor workers and counsel those who are identified as a result of a failed drug test. The expert Alcolizer team can assist Managers in understanding this area of drug testing, and can also provide information and counselling services for affected workers.

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