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In the past two decades, drug addiction and overdose-related deaths have been on the rise. More recently, opioid addiction in particular affects more employers and families every day. As of October 2015, the nation affirmed that opioid addiction is a national epidemic by launching federal, state, local, and private-sector initiatives to combat opioid addiction in the United States. In 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a public health emergency in response the current opioid crisis—2.1 million people had an opioid-use disorder which lead to 42, 249 deaths from 2016 to 2017.

In 2016, a study performed by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence showed that 70 percent of the 14.8 million Americans who abuse drugs are employed. The Substance Abuse Mental Health Services (SAMHSA) estimated that 10–12 percent of employees use alcohol and/or illegal drugs while at work. Some professions with high rates of drug abuse are lawyers, hotel and restaurant managers, oil and gas field workers, construction workers, doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Among doctors alone, a study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine showed that 69 percent of 55 surveyed doctors had misused prescription narcotics to manage stress, prevent withdrawal symptoms, or simply recreational use.

With the drug’s increasing popularity, HR departments within all industries should develop a plan to troubleshoot opioid addiction within their companies. Here are five steps KRESS recommends starting with:

  1. Write a Thorough Drug-free Workplace Policy

Recruit experienced legal counsel to consult with the HR department on ensuring your company’s drug-free workplace policy is up to date and inclusive of risk management, injury prevention, and liability in response to the nation’s narcotic epidemic.

  1. Train the HR Department, Supervisors, and Managers

Provide a presentation outlining the current opioid crisis and how it can potentially relate to and hinder your business. Ensure company leaders understand the drug’s potential impact on your workforce and why and how the issue needs to be addressed.

  1. Educate All Employees

Educating your entire workforce can be an effective preventative measure in the case overwhelmed employees are considering resorting to opioid use or may have already fallen victim to addiction. Present how opioid medications can affect health, job performance, and the safety of coworkers and customers, and offer alternatives to coping with stress and pain management. Employees should also be aware of how the employer can support those dealing with addiction.

  1. Develop an Employee Assistance Program

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a great safety net for employees who are struggling with substance abuse. EAPs allow for all employees to privately deal with drug related problems with experienced health professionals.

  1. Implement Consistent Drug Testing

Drug screening used to be rather straight forward when illegal drugs were banned in companies. Today, abuse and addiction of prescription drugs and painkillers have created problems for companies in all fields. KRESS drug screening reviews each company’s unique policy to screen employees before and during employment. Protect your company from opioids and other illicit drugs today.