Learn how to recognize the signs

What does an opioid user look like? If you grew up during the 60’s or 70’s, you might picture an opiate or heroin user as someone who is gaunt and wasting away in a back alley. Certainly not someone you’d see in your everyday life. And not someone who you’d regularly interact within your workplace.

Fast forward to 2019 and that picture looks much different. Commonly prescribed painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet mimic the effects of opiate drugs such as heroin and in recent years have left more people exposed to potential addiction. Abuse of these drugs has become more prevalent than ever; it’s no longer a problem far removed from the comfort of our homes and workplaces. Based on the current not-so-obvious picture of opioid addiction, how do you know what to look for in the workplace?

3 ways to uncover opioid misuse in your workplace 

  1. Unusual physical and behavioral signs – Two early warning signs reported by many employers are absenteeism and consistently poor job performance. Other areas to watch for: excessive fatigue, repeated health complaints, red or glazed eyes, sudden mood changes, increased negativity and withdrawal.
  2. On-the-job injuries – Sometimes these injuries are the result of substance abuse occurring in the workplace. Other times, on-the-job injuries can lead to the use of opioid-related pain medications. In either case, both should be considered and monitored when an on-the-job injury occurs.
  3. Telltale data– Tracking of medical and pharmacy claims is foundational to identifying individuals who are at risk for opioid addiction. Work with your carrier or broker to pull claims data reports, reveal patterns and analyze results. Gather this data regularly to avoid bigger issues later.

Catching the signs of opioid misuse in the workplace early is no easy task. However, becoming educated on what to look for can make detection easier. It’s equally important for your employees to be aware and educated so they are more comfortable reporting suspected use or seeking help when needed.

To learn how other employers are handling this issue, attend the discussion “Tackling Opioids in the Workplace: An Employers’ Survival Guide” on May 1, 2019.