Excerpted from SHRM article by Stephen Miller
Seventy-one percent of U.S. employers say they have been affected in some way by employee misuse of legally prescribed medications, including opioids, according to a new survey.
“Most drug addictions today don’t begin on the street; they start in a doctor’s office with legal, valid prescriptions,” said Deborah Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, a nonprofit chartered by Congress. “Employers must understand that the most dangerously misused drug today may be sitting in employees’ medicine cabinets. Even when they are taken as prescribed, prescription drugs such as opioids can impair workers and create hazards on the job.”
Most employers have a drug-free workplace policy directed at illegal drugs, along with an alcohol abuse policy, but most don’t have a prescription drug policy in place, Hersman said during a press briefing. Meanwhile, “misuse has grown rapidly, and employers have struggled to keep pace.”
The Council’s survey findings, released in March, build on 501 interviews with HR decision-makers across the U.S. at organizations with 50 or more employees. All respondents were involved in, or ultimately responsible for, their workplace’s strategy and policies on health and safety (including drug and alcohol policies) or health care benefits.
Other findings from the survey include:
• 19 percent of employers feel “extremely prepared” to deal with prescription drug misuse in the workplace;
• 81 percent lack a comprehensive drug-free workplace policy;
• 41 percent of those that drug test employees are not testing for synthetic opioids.
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