Last updated: November 27, 2023
The opioid abuse crisis is still raging across our nation. In fact, the situation has grown even more serious since our southern border has been left wide open. For instance, synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are pouring into the country.
Drug dealers are scooping fentanyl up because it’s cheap. It’s extremely lethal too and if someone brings it into the workplace, it’s putting everyone at risk—even touching a few grains of the stuff can be a death sentence.
Safe and sound
Your employees are your largest asset. It’s important to treat them well. Doing so forms a bond of trust that strengthens as time passes. When employees feel they can trust that the company they work for has their best interests at heart, you’re going to reap the benefits.
- Increased productivity
- Positive culture
- Lower absenteeism
- Less turnover
One way that employers ensure that their employees know they care is to identify as a drug-free workplace. That’s because identifying drug use in the workplace lets everyone know you put safety first. It’s important to understand how to identify the signs of fentanyl use—all synthetic opioids actually—in the workplace.
What are they?
Synthetic opioids are manmade drugs that closely resemble the makeup of drugs processed from the poppy plant. Some forms of these drugs are produced legally. Physicians often prescribe them for moderate to severe pain management. Think post-surgery, the final stages of cancer, or a severe back injury perhaps.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers all synthetic opioids to be controlled substances. The scheduling ranges depending on the strength of the medication and whether or not the drug is intended for medical use.
Those that are prescribed for pain relief include the brand names:
Semisynthetic opiate medications contain natural opiates combined with manmade chemical formations that mimic, yet, intensify the effect of natural opiates.
These drugs include:
Like synthetic opiates, these drugs are highly addictive. In fact, there are cases of people forming addictions before they completed the prescription cycle.
The dark side of things
Some of these prescription medications find their way into the hands of drug abusers. It’s totally conceivable that someone with a prescription could market the drugs by the pill. Likewise, an addict wouldn’t hesitate to steal the medication from the medicine cabinet of a friend or relative. They then take it themselves or sell the drugs for a quick buck on the street.
The majority of black-market synthetic opioids, though, are manufactured in clandestine laboratories in Mexico or China and smuggled into the United States. These drugs are often more potent than morphine and heroin. It stands to reason, then, that they are highly addictive.
They also put the user at a huge risk of overdosing. That’s due to the fact that the human brain builds up a tolerance to opioid drugs. In short, the brain quickly accepts the sensations associated with taking these drugs as normal. So, in order for the user to achieve the effect of the drug that they are looking for, they must continually increase the dosage. Once the drug reaches a certain level in the body, an overdose occurs.
How synthetic opioids affect the body
The effects of clandestinely produced synthetic opioids are the same as commonly used—and abused—opiates.
- Pain relief
- Urinary retention
- Constricted pupils
- Respiratory depression
Signs of overdose include:
- Changes in pupil size
- Cold, clammy skin
- Respiratory failure
The presence of any three of the above symptoms together indicates a strong possibility of opioid poisoning. Seek emergency medical attention immediately if you come upon someone in this condition. They are in dire need of help or they could die.
Check the person’s pockets for Narcan. This drug temporarily blocks the effects of opioid drugs often giving medical personnel a chance to save the overdose victim.
Know the signs
If you haven’t already, provide training for your management teams. Being aware of the signs of use can nip a problem in the bud before it becomes huge.
If you have a reasonable suspicion clause in your drug-free policies, make sure your leaders understand the particulars of the documenting process. If you don’t, add one—now. Likewise, if you don’t participate in a drug-free program, start one.
Drug-free programs are a huge deterrent against drug use in the workplace. When people find out that there’s a drug test, they aren’t likely to apply for a position in your company if they can’t pass it.
People who don’t use drugs, however, have no problem with drug testing. They realize the advantages of working for an employer who won’t tolerate drug use. And, once they get the job, they’re more likely to stay for a very long time.