When properly prescribed and taken as directed, opioid pain medications make it possible for people to lead productive lives instead of being held hostage by pain. However, these medications can lead to dependency and are highly addictive. If you are taking an opioid pain medication, it is important that you are aware of its risks.
Drug overdose deaths are at an all-time high in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioids and heroin (abusers of opioid medications often shift to heroin because it’s cheaper) killed more than 47,000 Americans in 2014. Many of these overdoses and deaths occurred among people who became addicted to opioid pain relievers while following a doctor’s orders.
The federal government is working to reduce these numbers. For example, Vicodin, Norco, Lortab and other opioid medications now carry warning labels. Restrictions on how opioids are prescribed have also been imposed. However, patients must also be aware of the warning signs of addiction and seek help if they experience any symptoms.
Help Is Available
Workplace substance abuse programs can help protect employers and employees from the consequences of the abuse and misuse of prescription pain relievers and other medications, as well as alcohol and illegal drugs.
The LHSFNA’s Health Promotion Division can help develop workplace substance abuse programs tailored to the unique needs and challenges of specific workplaces. For more information, call 202-628-5465.
Pamphlets, booklets and program materials about various aspects of substance abuse and drug-free workplace programs can be ordered through the LHSFNA’s website at www.lhsfna.org by clicking on Publications.
Warning Signs of Opioid Pain Reliever Addiction
- Needing more of the drug over time to get the same effect
- Feeling you have to use the drug regularly – daily or even several times a day
- Focusing more and more time and energy on getting and using the drug, such as doctor shopping
- Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use
- Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing
- Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug
- Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug
Medication in the Workplace
Opioids are powerful medications. Even when addiction is not an issue, side effects that include confusion and drowsiness can create hazards in the workplace. Taking an opioid can be particularly dangerous when operating heavy machinery.
It is important that employers have a clear and easy to understand drug-free workplace policy in terms of what is and is not permissible at the workplace. This policy should address behavior, safety and health and should be provided to all workers to whom it will apply. The LHSFNA recommends that a training session about the policy and the health and safety issues associated with drugs and alcohol be provided.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]