Last updated: March 20, 2023
For fear of losing their job, many employees won’t let their boss or their HR department know that they’re taking painkillers. They feel that as long as they can handle the side effects, no one will have to know their secret. Really, employees see dealing with pain as more of a distraction than the change in productivity and concentration they experience while taking painkillers long term. But employees addicted to painkillers are causing their employers to bear staggering financial losses more and more each year.
There is a tendency in society to encourage seeking treatments that provide immediate relief. Many varying factors determine how long an opiate stays in the user’s system, but the average length is between approximately five to two weeks or longer. Not only do these types of drugs minimize pain levels, they also trigger the brain’s “feel good” passages, by spiking dopamine levels which in turn causes the user to get hooked to the opioid.
More often than not, employees are getting minor and major injuries while carrying out their duties. The average cost of a workplace injury is $13,000. However,when an injury involves a drug like Percocet, it triples to $39,000; a more potent opioid spikes costs up to $117,000. The frequent occurrence of opioid-related injuries is costing employer’s billions of dollars, not only when filing workplace injury claims but also from having to pay for their employees’ absence. An abuser of painkillers will typically experience uncomfortable symptoms in their digestive tract including queasiness, vomiting, and diarrhea; this takes place as the opioid interacts with digestive tract receptors. Consequently, many employees stay away from work; the longer they remain absent, the more sick leave or disability compensation an employer will have to pay.
The continual use of narcotics by an employee creates sporadic behavior, where he or she will come late, take longer and longer breaks, grow more and more clumsy, lack adequate concentration to fulfill duties, produce poor quality work or end up missing work altogether. The epidemic of opioid abuse and its impact on workers’ compensation is particularly noticeable in New York and Pennsylvania, where the percentages of injured workers that become longer-term users of opioids are among the highest in the nation. In order to stop the workplace nosebleed due to prescription painkillers, it is evident that something has to change.
The use of narcotic painkillers, such as OxyContin and morphine by employees has surged tremendously in recent years to the point that employers are conducting urine screenings to test workers for the presence of prescribed medications; this is due to the impact opioids are having on their employees’ work performance, in particular, how it impacts their ability to carry out work duties safely when alone or when around their workmates. A permanent solution to this ongoing dilemma, however, is yet to be found. Although employees have the right to seek appropriate medical treatment under a doctor’s care, it could lead to impairment on the job, potential injuries, and even death from accidental overdose.