A growing concern for many years is overdose on opioid painkillers, and a recent study confirms that prescription drug abuse is a major problem in U.S. workplaces. Even when these drugs are taken as prescribed, opioids can impair a worker’s mental and physical state, and create numerous dangers on the job.
Not only can employers be liable for injuries sustained by employees misusing drugs, but also any injuries to coworkers caused by an employee
who was under the influence of prescription painkillers.
Employers Struggle to Combat Prescription Drug Misuse
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), over 70 percent of employers nationwide have been impacted by drug misuse in the workplace—and 75 percent of adults struggling with a substance use problems are in the workforce.
Researchers conducted over 500 interviews with human resources administrators at companies with 50 or more employees across the U.S., examining both the perceptions and real-life experiences with prescription drugs in the workplace. The study revealed some troublesome findings, including:
- Lack of employee training. Only 13 percent of participants reported that they were "very confident" that employees were able to spot the signs of drug misuse, and 76 percent didn't offer training in drug abuse or workplace drug policies.
- Conflicting drug policies and ideals. While 71 percent of employers agreed that prescription drug misuse is a disease and can be overcome with treatment, 65 percent also said that drug abuse is a justifiable reason to fire an employee.
- Problems with drug-free policies. Nearly half of employers with drug-testing programs didn't test for synthetic opioids. In addition, 81 percent of participants’ workplace policies lack a comprehensive drug-free program.
- Inadequate treatment alternatives. Although 88 percent of participants said that an employer’s health insurance covering alternative pain treatments would be an effective way to combat drug misuse, 30 percent of employers said that they wouldn't negotiate expanded coverage for alternative medicine.
Another potentially problematic issue is employees who take medications with a valid prescription aren't doing anything illegal. However, even employees legally using painkillers can place themselves and coworkers at risk—and employers can be held legally responsible for any injuries on the job caused by prescribed medications.
If you or someone you love has been injured at work, call us today or fill out the form on this page to set up your consultation with an attorney.