Prescription Drug Abuse in the Workplace On the Rise

Last modified: September 23, 2013 11:49:14 AM

More than 70 percent of substances abusers have a job and the number of people having on-the-job accidents increases at an alarming rate.

It could be your child’s bus driver, the trucker barreling down the turnpike or the doctor in charge of your care. The fact is, many people who take prescription painkillers hold down a job. As the number of people who take these meds increases, so does the number of people having on-the-job accidents. The population is aging. With that comes an inevitable increase in the number of illnesses, injuries and diseases that can cause chronic pain. But young people are affected by painful injuries and conditions too. And let’s not forget the dramatic increase in the last few years in the number of people who are becoming addicted to these drugs. This means that in the course of a typical day, you probably encounter more than one person dependent on prescription opiates.

The American Council for Drug Education says that more than 70 percent of substances abusers have a job. The figure includes both legal and illegal drugs but independent researchers estimate that the number of people holding or looking for a job while taking prescription opiates has increased by 40 percent since 2005, according to news agencies.

Painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Darvocet, Demerol and Vicodin are often prescribed for moderate to severe pain. While they are seen as quite a beneficial pain-fighting tool, they do have a reputation for being habit forming. People who take them routinely for prolonged periods can develop a tolerance. Escalation of use can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. Crime associated with opiate addiction has become rampant. Newspapers in nearly every corner of the country report on the toll that prescription drugs have taken in their communities. Personal theft and pharmacy robberies are on the rise. People are stealing meds from the medicine cabinets of friends and neighbors. The accessibility of these drugs means that virtually anyone can get what they’re looking for at any time. Prescription painkillers are among the most popular drugs on the black market. They are also easy to access on the Internet.

Workplace use of opiates translates into missed days of work and lessened productivity. Accidents are also increasing because of the effect that opiates have. They can produce euphoric feelings, making people feel high. High doses can cause confusion and incoherence. Other side effects include drowsiness. So what’s the solution? There’s no question that impairment on the job is dangerous for everyone. But which is worse, the distraction caused by the torment of pain or the distraction caused by the haze of prescription painkillers? The sad reality is that there’s no easy answer.