Drug Testing During the Opioid Crisis: What Employers Need to Know (Perspectives)
Although it’s all over headlines, many of us remain under-informed about the current opioid crisis. A quick peek at Google Trends shows that the top search query after “opioids” is “what are opioids.” To be clear, numerous leaders in healthcare, politics, and the business and nonprofit worlds are taking significant steps to address the problem, but plenty of people still need education about the essential facts of opioid abuse and what each of us can do to prevent it.
Opioids are substances that interact with receptors in the human brain to produce feelings of pain relief and euphoria. Drugs classified as opioids include oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and heroin. And the term “crisis” isn’t an overstatement: the American Society of Addiction Medicine estimates (PDF) that nearly 2.5 million Americans have developed substance use disorders involving prescription pain relievers or heroin.
What can we do in the workplace to help mitigate the epidemic? Our collaborators at Fisher Phillips tackled that question in a recent article on their Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog. While there’s no single and easy answer, write attorneys Edwin Foulke Jr. and Travis Vance, employers can and should take a few steps to address opioid-related issues among their workforces:
The growing opioid epidemic and its impact on employee behavior and health creates unique challenges for employers. Although no perfect response is available, now is the time for employers to rethink their drug testing and counseling programs in order to keep their employees and workplace safe. A focus on education, prevention, and counseling may help minimize the impact of opioid use on the workplace.
Ed and Travis advise that employers consider the following approaches:
- Create an environment where employees are more likely to disclose opioid-related issues
- Reconsider zero tolerance drug testing failure policies
- consider enhanced monitoring of workers’ compensation claims
- Revisit and enhance drug counseling programs
You can find their guidance in its entirety here. For more information about drug testing and safety in the workplace, click here.
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