The opioid epidemic in America has been officially declared a public health emergency.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and The Department of Transportation (DOT) have both issued final rules making mandatory testing for opioids a requirement in every Federal/DOT drug screen, but government isn’t the only industry that should be mindful of the threat of opioid abuse among employees.
We at Blue Arbor urge all non-regulated employers to also consider including opioid screening into their drug testing program.
While you might not think your business could be affected by the opioid epidemic, the fact is, you may have employees who have at some point in the past been prescribed prescription painkillers and who now find themselves dependent on opioids to keep their pain in check. The reliance that often results from the use of these drugs wreaks havoc in the life of the person for whom they were prescribed, as what were initially efforts to simply combat pain can quickly become the slippery slope that leads to unintended addiction.
What exactly are opioids?
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides a thorough description of opioids:
Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others.These drugs are chemically related and interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor, but because they produce euphoria in addition to pain relief, they can be misused (taken in a different way or in a larger quantity than prescribed, or taken without a doctor’s prescription). Regular use—even as prescribed by a doctor—can lead to dependence and, when misused, opioid pain relievers can lead to overdose incidents and deaths.”
The one-minute video below has some sobering statistics:
- More than 90 Americans from opioid overdoses daily
- In the last 15 years, ER visits and deaths due to opioid abuse have quadrupled and continue to rise.
- The CDC estimates nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths are due to prescription opioids.
You can balance vigilance for your business and dignity for your employees.
Drug testing is always a sensitive subject. While many employees don’t mind mandatory drug testing, others look at the procedure as a sign of a lack of trust, and of course, others are fearful that their illicit drug use will be exposed.
Naturally, you’ll want to implement a drug-free workplace policy that is fair and equitable, but also one that is effective. The National Safety Council offers some sound recommendations for employers:
- Use a lab certified by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services or an equivalent agency. [Note: Blue Arbor is an experienced Third-Party Administrator (TPA), we offer testing options that are compliant to State, Federal (HHS), and Department of Transportation (DOT) Regulations. Learn more here.]
- It’s wise to consult with legal counsel to develop your company’s testing policies and procedures.
- There are different ways of conducting drug tests. Put some thought into using a testing format that respects the privacy and dignity of each employee.
- Have a clear, written, and easily available policy about drug use in the workplace. Testing procedures and displinary actions (in the case drug use is discovered through testing) should be clearly spelled out. Employees should understand how the test will be given, when it will be given, and what drugs the test will detect.
- Require employees to read the policy and sign an acknowledgment that they have done so.
- For every drug test administered, document why the test was necessary and how it was performed.
- Ensure test results are absolutely confidential medical information.
- Be consistent if and when workers test positive.