What are Opioids, and How Do They Affect Your Business?

Millions of Americans have used a prescription opioid for a range of conditions, and when used properly, these drugs can be beneficial. It is important to also bear in mind the potential risks associated with their use. Misuse, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose have become an increasing threat throughout our country. In the last two decades, a staggering 263,000 Americans have tragically passed away due to opioid overdose related to prescription opioid use.

With the potential for inducing impairment or creating other safety risks, Prescription opioid use can become an issue that should not be taken lightly in the workplace. The consequences of opioid drug abuse can become costly to companies because of absenteeism and lack of productivity, increased healthcare costs, higher employee turnover rates, as well as issues like injury and violence within the workplace environment. By understanding the dangers involved, we can take necessary steps to ensure the safe usage of opioid medications.


Opioid Effects And Abuse

Opiate use disorder is characterized by a relentless desire for the drug, manifested through behaviors such as “doctor shopping,” where an individual visits multiple physicians to obtain new opioid prescriptions. The extreme cravings to use these drugs can push people to search for, purchase, or resort to thievery from their friends and relatives. In moments of desperation, some may even turn to heroin, an illegal opiate that is easily available on the streets. Even though it’s well-known how dangerous this drug can be, it tends to be more affordable than prescription opioids, which is why many still resort to using this option as a last resort.

Abusing Opioids can include taking higher doses or more frequent usage than initially prescribed. This continual misuse of the drug can quickly cause dependency and an intense addiction, which is difficult to overcome without professional help from a rehabilitation center. The most evident markers of such dependence are powerful cravings for the medication as well as continuing usage even if there are severe consequences that follow its use. Opioid abuse can have devastating repercussions, so it’s essential to be mindful of any physical and behavioral signs that may indicate a problem.

Common red flags include:

  • Mixing medication with other substances
  • Contracted pupils
  • Drowsiness or involuntarily falling asleep
  • Itchy skin or scratching and picking
  • Apathy and social isolation
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Impulsivity and indecision

If you suspect a colleague or employee is battling an opioid addiction, it’s imperative to take action as soon as possible before the situation deteriorates. Once this substance use disorder has been identified, finding professional help must be done swiftly for the best outcome.


How to Help Someone with an Opioid Addiction?

Early detection is key to avoiding the development of an addiction. There are numerous treatment options available, yet research has revealed that the most effective form of therapy for opioid addiction is inpatient detoxification combined with residential rehab. Opioid withdrawal symptoms can be especially dangerous, and medical supervision is always recommended. Inpatient rehabilitation centers provide specialized programs and mental health services tailored specifically to those struggling with this substance use disorder.

Staging an Intervention

Interventions are intentional conversations between those struggling with addiction and the people closest to them. They normally take place after that person has been confronted about their dependence yet denies having difficulty or refuses to get assistance. Owing to how addictions overpower the brain’s sense of awareness and judgment, this person may not comprehend the damage their behaviors have caused others nearby. The ultimate objective of such interventions is to assist these individuals in entering into treatment programs so they can begin their journey toward recovery.


Tips for Mitigating Opioid Addiction in The Workplace

The financial and emotional effects of opioid misuse in the workplace are evident, yet they can be efficiently diminished by establishing programs that provide employees with educational resources, employee assistance program (EAP) services, and access to confidential treatment. The National Safety Council urges the following steps for companies considering taking action:


Implement a Drug-Free Work Environment with Random Drug Testing

Employers can develop these policies with the assistance of legal counsel and human resources to guarantee that risk management, injury protection, and liability information are effectively included. All terms should be distinctly articulated and conveyed in writing or other types of media to each employee for reference. When formulating the drug use policy for their business, employers also have the option to enlist a medical review officer who will assess both said policy as well as any results from tests conducted by such a company.


Educate Managers on Company Drug Policies

Managers must become knowledgeable of the company’s drug policies that focus on prescription medications, competence for duty, and qualification for returning to work. For instance, the usage of certain prescribed medicines may be protected by the American Disabilities Act, meaning they are exempt from any form of drug testing.

Training Supervisors On How to Identify Behaviors of Opioid Use

Understanding the right approaches to efficiently intervene and interact with employees who may be having difficulties boosts the chance of individuals being treated promptly.


Establish an EAP and Educate Employees on Substance Use

An employee wellness program can be a valuable tool to educate individuals on the dangers of opioid use, such as difficulties with driving, attention span, physical coordination, and balance. It is also essential to remind them about potential contraindications between opioids and other medications like antidepressants or sedatives, which could possibly hamper their judgment further.


Create a Confidential Referal Network Covered by Your Healthcare Plan

By providing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), businesses can ensure their employees have access to confidential treatment options like detoxification, medication-assisted therapy, and psychotherapy. These treatments should be covered by the company’s health plan in order to reduce costs associated with having to replace a worker due to substance abuse issues, such as lost productivity or continuity. Employer interventions are key for reducing these potential losses and promoting employee well-being.


Utilize Prescription Management Tools

Prescription benefit management technology is invaluable in helping physicians to track opioid prescribing and detect potential misuse or abuse of medications. Alerts are triggered if there’s an attempt at early refilling of opioid prescriptions and even when patients visit multiple doctors for the same prescription. Up-to-date PBM technology can help prevent costly mistakes and provide a safer environment for doctors and patients.


Communicate Employee Rights

It is important to educate employees about their legal rights and the various treatment options available to create a workplace atmosphere that encourages assistance-seeking. Understandably, some staff members may be apprehensive that they will lose their employment if they enter into therapy. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act offer protection for them in such cases.

Different treatment plans are prescribed depending on the individual’s diagnosis, intensity, and functioning level. Short-term and long-term disability benefits empower employees to receive a continuous income even if they need to take some time off for rehabilitation. This way, individuals can focus their energy on healing without having to worry about financial stability or repercussions at work.


Create Addiction Awareness and Reduce Stigma

Organizations can help break stigmas regarding addiction by educating their staff about the neurological roots of this disorder. Addiction does not indicate a lack of strength or discipline; rather, it is an illness caused by biological factors in the brain. By creating a work environment that prioritizes empathy and understanding, companies can make employees feel more comfortable coming forward to ask for help with substance use disorders.


830 Broadway
Norwood, NJ 07648



Follow Us

The Union Workforce Initiative is for educational, training, and awareness purposes only. This is not an Employee Assistance Program. We help build awareness within the workforces of employer/employee assistance professionals, substance abuse professionals, nurses, doctors, and other educational professionals.