Human Resources News & Insights

The opioid epidemic and your prescription drug policy: Is an update needed?

If prescription drug abuse is impacting workers, you’re not alone. 

Seven out of 10 employers have had to deal with the effects of employees’ prescription drug abuse, according to a National Safety Council study.

And those effects run the gamut from absenteeism and selling prescriptions at work, and impaired or decreased performance and overdoses.

While it may seem like there’s little employers can do to prevent issues in this area, that’s not the case.

Painkiller alternatives

Benefits pros can work with insurers to make sure addictive prescription drugs aren’t the go-to option for every injury or ailment.

How? By giving workers access to insurer-covered alternative therapies.

Alternative therapies – such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, hypnosis, etc. – are attempted before addictive prescription drugs are brought into the equation.

Despite plenty of interest, employers seem to be balking at actually giving this option a shot. In fact, even though 88% of firms were interested in their insurer covering alternative treatments, just 30% planned on actually negotiating on that expanded coverage option.

Employers should also review insurance policies and EAP contracts to make sure employees are covered for prescription drug abuse.

3 key safeguards

In light of the opioid epidemic, now is probably a good time to update key policies. The National Safety Council recommends the following:

Create a drug-free workplace program (DFWP). This states what workers must do if they are prescribed meds that may cause impairment.

Test for prescriptions. Working with an attorney, employers can test for drugs that are legally prescribed and commonly abused.

Spell out what happens when abuse occurs. This should include how the abuse is identified, employees’ options (leave, etc.) and how a return works.

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