Tag Archives: drug testing

How Employers Should Address Opioid Use Within the Workplace

Employee drug use is an ongoing issue for many companies. This problem has escalated in recent years largely due to the widespread opioid use that’s sweeping the U.S. It’s more prevalent than you might think and no workplace is immune. As a result, employers need to address opioid use head on.


A Growing Concern

Prior to the 21st century, opioid addiction was generally considered as out of sight and out of mind for most employers. It had a limited impact and wasn’t a major issue on the macro level. Things have changed in recent years, with many employers now viewing opioid use as a bigger problem than illegal drugs.

It transcends the common stereotypes that most people have of addicts and junkies and can affect almost anyone. Even someone who’s never touched a drug in their life can suffer an injury or undergo a medical procedure where they’re prescribed an opioid such as morphine, codeine or oxycodone to manage the pain. Within a short period of time, they’re addicted.


Some Alarming Statistics

At this point, opioid use is considered an epidemic. A 2015 study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found, “One in three Americans took prescription opioid painkillers that year.” A separate study from the National Safety Council stated, “In 2010, more people died from overdose of opioid painkillers than died from heroin and cocaine combined.”

It’s an incredibly serious problem. The White House has even considered declaring a national emergency on opioids. When opioids pervade your workplace, it can wreak havoc. The immediate dangers include risk of injury or even death, especially in more hazardous occupations like construction or machining. Additionally, it can lead to increased absenteeism, reduced performance and more.


What Can You Do?

This is definitely an issue to tackle right away. It starts by adjusting your workplace drug policy to account for opioids, such as prescription painkillers. For instance, you might explicitly state that employees are prohibited from taking any opioids that aren’t prescribed by a physician. You should also mandate that any employees who are prescribed this type of medication must consult their doctor to determine if it will interfere with their performance or could create a safety issue.

It’s also smart to implement opioid drug testing for new hires and periodically for staff. Although many employers already test for other illegal substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine, they don’t necessarily target opioids. This can serve as an effective deterrent and help you spot issues before they get out of control.

A final option is to offer your employees insurer-covered alternative pain management therapies. Scientists are finding that there are several other ways to treat pain that don’t involve traditional medication. Some examples include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Hypnosis


Although these may not always be viable for more severe cases, it’s definitely something to look into.

There’s no denying that America is facing an opioid epidemic. Its tentacles are far-reaching and could easily impact your workplace. Fortunately, there are several ways to address this issue and ensure that it doesn’t adversely affect your company.


Does Testing Employees for Marijuana Still Make Sense?

Marijuana legalization has been widely debated over the past few years. On the whole, Americans now have a more relaxed attitude toward the substance, which is evident by the widespread legalization for both medical and recreational use. As a result, more and more companies are wondering if testing employees for marijuana still makes sense.


Marijuana Legalization in America

According to Governing Magazine, “Twenty-six states and the District of Columbia currently have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. Three other states will soon join them after recently passing measures permitting use of medical marijuana.” On top of this, there are currently eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana use including the entire west coast.

As it brings in huge tax revenue (sales were up from $4.8 billion in 2015 to $6.5 billion in 2016), it’s very likely that this pattern will continue and more states will get on board. Not to mention, President Trump was in favor of medical marijuana on his campaign trail.


A Decline in Employee Testing

While this isn’t true for all states, some, like Colorado where recreational marijuana is legal, have seen a decline in employee testing. According to a 2016 survey by the Mountain States Employers Council, “Marijuana testing by Colorado employers has slowly declined over the past two years; 7 percent of the state’s employers dropped it from pre-employment tests, while 3 percent removed it from all employment drug tests.”

There’s a similar trend happening in California and Oregon as well. Oregon even introduced a bill that would prevent employers from firing employees because of using marijuana during their off-duty hours. However, it’s important to point out that this is by no means the norm. A large volume of American employers still test their employees for marijuana and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.


What’s Best for Your Business?

The most important thing is figuring out how your business fits into this equation. Is testing employees for marijuana still a good decision, especially if you’re located in one of the eight states where recreational cannabis use is legal? Although there are a plethora of different factors to consider, you could make the point that your decision hinges largely upon one key detail — whether or not your employees work in “safety-sensitive” positions.

If the use of drugs or alcohol in any form would directly put your workers, customers or the general public at risk, marijuana testing is probably a good idea. For instance, a trucker or forklift operator could both do a great deal of damage if they were working under the influence of marijuana.

However, cannabis testing may very well be more trouble than it’s worth if you employ individuals in positions that aren’t safety-sensitive. In this case, the costs and potential headaches may not justify testing.

The average American’s stance on marijuana has changed considerably in the 21st century. For many, it’s just not that big of a deal anymore. With legalization both medically and recreationally in many states, it’s forcing employers to rethink their drug testing policies. If this is a practice with your employees, it’s definitely worth your time to carefully consider all of the angles and decide what makes the most sense for you.