How HR Can Lead The Fight Against Opioids In The Workplace

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

How can your Human Resources department lead the fight against opioids in the workplace? The answer is a lot more than just random drug testing. While that is certainly an important piece of the puzzle, it may not always identify things like prescription drug abuse. Currently two thirds of HR professionals say that their workplace has been or will be impacted by the opioid epidemic. It’s up to employers to do all they can to ensure this epidemic stops growing.

Fear Keeps People From Seeking Help

If you have a workplace drug policy in place, people who struggle with addiction may forego seeking help out of fear of losing their ability to provide for their families. Oftentimes people can develop an addiction after legitimate opioid use after an injury or surgery. Opioids became more common in the 1990s after a convergence of factors that made them more common. Direct to consumer advertising of medications was deregulated, while pharmaceutical companies worked to push the narrative that these drugs were completely safe and addiction was not a serious risk factor.

Because opioids have been overprescribed for decades now, people often find themselves continuing to use them long after needed, and some of those people turn to illegal opioids such as heroin or illicitly made Fentanyl. While those may show up on a routine or random drug screen, if a patient has a prescription for the opioid they are abusing it will not show up. Employees may find themselves in need of help from medical professionals, but they may resist seeking it because of workplace drug policies that make them fear losing their jobs.

How The HR Department Can Lead The Fight

Simply putting a framework in place to encourage those needing help to get it can erase barriers to treatment for many. Employees are already protected in many cases by FMLA, but that coverage is not universal. Ensuring employees retain their jobs regardless of addiction treatment is the single most compassionate and effective thing your HR department can do to combat addiction.

Make sure that the policy for seeking treatment is spelled out clearly in your employee handbook. Other safeguards that can encourage employees to seek help when they need it include:

  • Ensure HR professionals are trained on how to properly respond to employee requests for addiction treatment
  • Ensure that addiction treatment is treated like any other medical condition
  • Ensure addiction treatment is covered by insurance whenever possible, or pledge to fund a portion of expenses
  • Promote health and wellness programs including stress management
  • Educate employees about harm reduction and treatment options
  • Create a framework for mentoring upon return from addiction treatment to bolster success

The Opioid Crisis Won’t Go Away Overnight

There are no signs this crisis is dying down, and it’s crucial to have a framework for dealing with it in the workplace in place. Learn more about the current opioid epidemic, as well as what your company can do to fight it in the workplace, from this infographic from US Drug Test Centers.



Infographic by US Drug Test Centers


Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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