Can I Test Employees for Prescription Drugs?

Keeping your workplace drug free and safe is an ever constant concern, but in these times, illegal substances and alcohol are no longer the only intoxicants that can affect your workplace environment. There is a growing trend in prescription drug abuse which is poking its head into the corporate world. It’s estimated that every day, there is around 5,500 new nonmedical users who abuse prescription drugs and this number can only be expected to grow. Statistics on prescription drug abuse rank the trend as becoming a future epidemic. This major shift of drug abuse in America is something employers must take into consideration in their drug free work environments.

Prescription drugs, when taken under medical supervision and as prescribed, are likely to be harmless. However, because of the addictive qualities of some prescription drugs, they can still pose a danger when taken as prescribed, simply because of the physical dependence that they can cause.

Prescription drug abuse in the workplace presents a unique challenge in that some states do not allow for employees to be tested for prescription drugs, while others require a medical review officer (MRO) to review results and establish proof of prescription in the case that an employee tests positive.  Prescription drug abuse in the workplace is a very real situation, with very real consequences if not addressed. Employers must take care to evaluate whether or not their workforce would benefit from testing for prescription drugs, and then they must determine the laws of their state to establish if they can legally screen employees for prescription drugs.

The Department of Labor has additional information on drug testing employees that can help determine whether your company should start a drug testing program.

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The Danger of Benzodiazepine Addiction

Xanax, Aprazolam, Ativan, Valium, Lunesta. These are likely names that you have heard, all belonging to the benzodiazepine drug family. Benzodiazepines, commonly called benzos, are depressant drugs intended to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia, but they’ve become widely popular for illegal drug use. Studies by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have shown that treatment for benzo abuse has tripled in ten years, while treatment for other illicit drugs only increased 11 percent during the same time frame.

Benzodiazepines are most often taken in conjunction with another drug. In the same study by SAMHSA, over half of the cases showed benzodiazepines as secondary abused drugs, subjecting the drug user to the dangers of drug cocktails. Mixing drugs and alcohol can cause serious consequences that can lead to injury or death. The risk of these fatal effects is very high with benzos since they are often combined with other drugs or alcohol.

Even when prescribed, benzodiazepines have a reputation for being highly addictive drugs. This characteristic of benzos makes their physical dependence more extreme than other prescription drugs. Because of this, quitting cold turkey is not advised by medical professionals, but a gradual withdrawal method is suggested to keep the user from extreme benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms. Slowly weaning off drug dependence is the safest way to prevent the severe detox reactions often associated with benzo withdrawal.

There are many resources for benzodiazepine addiction, and Drug Test Central offers many drug tests for those helping a loved one stay on the course of sobriety.

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Implementing Pre-Employment Drug Testing

Hiring. Not the easiest part of most managers’ jobs, but an obvious necessity. Hiring new employees can be an exciting process, but there are many considerations when introducing a new member to the office team. Many employers choose to include employee drug testing as part of the hiring process, particularly in safety-sensitive environments, to ensure that any new hires will be able to perform their duties effectively and carefully.

Drug testing research is undeniably the first step in implementing pre-employment drug testing policies. Laws surrounding drug screening vary from state to state; some states limit how drug testing is conducted, or even employees can be screened for drugs at all. It is essential that you research and understand your own state’s policies and laws. If your company has its headquarters in one state but also has operations in other states, you must comply with the pre-employment drug testing policies of all states your company operates. Legal advice is strongly encouraged by the Department of Labor when building drug testing policies to ensure that you are staying within the limits of the law.

In general, the policy of most states is to inform a prospective job applicant that employee drug testing is a part of the hiring process. This typically includes having a signed consent form from the applicant before any testing is done. By signing a consent form, the applicant grants your company legal permission to perform the drug testing.

While it is not recommended to replace legal counsel, there are websites that highlight the pre-employment drug testing policies for each state to help in your initial planning.

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How to Develop Workplace Drug Testing Policies

The decision of whether or not to implement a drug testing program can be difficult. It is not an easy policy to implement and there can be significant questions on the do’s and don’ts. For some companies with federal contracts (typically only contracts of $100,000 or more) or those under Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, the decision tends to be easier: employee drug testing is often necessary to fulfill the requirements of the contract.

The Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988 has certain requirements for some federally contracted companies to implement workplace drug testing, and these requirements must be adhered to in order to keep the contract. DOT also has specific rules related to the drug testing of transportation employees, due to the extremity of the safety concerns.

But what about private employers? Non-union private companies do not typically have a legal requirement to perform drug testing in the workplace. But in many instances, particularly in safety sensitive environments, it can be a vital program to ensure the protection your employees and your business. Industries such as construction, auto repair and manufacturing have very serious safety concerns, and in many instances workplace drug testing programs act as a safeguard.

There are currently no federal regulations for employee drug testing in the private sector, but each state has its own set of guidelines that employers must adhere to in order to keep within the limits of the law. It is vital to research your state’s drug testing regulations and understand how implementing a drug testing policy can impact your workforce.

For employers seeking more information on workplace drug testing, the Department of Labor (DOL) has an online Drug Free Workplace Advisor that helps guide the process of developing these corporate policies. It is recommended by the DOL  that every company be legally advised on their drug testing policies prior to implementation to ensure that they are aligned with state laws.

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Addiction Recovery and Stress Management

Stress is a factor for everyone, but for people in addiction recovery, managing stress can mean the difference between success and failure. While in addiction recovery, stress management is one of the most essential elements to maintaining sobriety. Not being prepared to effectively cope with life’s inevitable struggles can lead a recovering addict down a path to relapse. While in the grips of their addiction, an addict would respond to stressful situations with his or her addictive drug of choice, and during the recovery process they may find it difficult to handle their stresses without returning to their old habits. Indentifying stressors and triggers is the key to success in helping people in addiction recovery, and knowing how to manage this stress in a healthy way is fundamental.

Studies show that positive coping skills aid in relapse prevention and addiction recovery in both adolescent and adult drug users. In states of heightened stress, a recovering drug user may find him or herself resorting back to maladaptive coping measures such as drug use. Stressful and negative states are known to increase impulsivity as well as decrease self-control. A successful stress management system can lower chances of relapse and provide the recovering drug user with tools for life.

For a more in depth look at the science behind stress and addiction recovery, please take a look at this study.

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Prescription Drugs are the New Killer- Part 2

Guest Blog Post, Written by Lock the Cabinet

Continued from previous post

As a parent, what can you do to keep your children safe? If you have to keep prescription medications in the house, keep them locked up in a safe place. If your medicine cabinet doesn’t have a lock, consider getting one that does. Track the number of pills in each bottle to be sure none are being taken without your knowledge. Even if your teen isn’t the one stealing your pills, their friends might be.

If you have left over pills, make sure to dispose of them properly. Check with your local police or fire department for a prescription pill dropbox. Many cities now provide secure places for you to leave your unused or unwanted medications.

The most important way to make sure your teenager isn’t abusing prescription drugs is to talk to them. Don’t lecture your kids; instead have regular talks with them about the dangers of misusing prescription medications. Explain to your children that prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illegal drugs and can have deadly consequences. Talk to them about how to deal with peer pressure and what do if they suspect a friend is using drugs.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t need to talk to your teen about prescription drug abuse. Even the smartest kids and the most talented young athletes can fall prey to peer pressure or the excitement of experimentation. Even “good kids” need to know the dangers of prescription drug abuse and that their parents are involved in their lives and keeping an eye on them.

Lock the Cabinet is a campaign to encourage adults to take all necessary precautions to ensure children and teens are not taking drugs that can damage their developing brains and bodies. Getting high on prescription drugs is dangerous – lock the cabinet to ensure your kids and their friends don’t have easy access.

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Prescription Drugs are the New Killer- Part 1

Guest blog post, written by Lock the Cabinet

As an adult, you know that those Vicodin pills from your latest dental appointment should probably be thrown away.  But something in the back of your head tells you to keep them just in case you need them in the future.  While you think that you’ll eventually just throw them away, what if those prescription pills end up in the wrong hands? 

What if your teenager uses them to get high?  Teen prescription drug abuse is an alarming new trend.  Statistics show that kids are abusing these seemingly “safe” drugs more than they are using methamphetamines, heroin, crack, and cocaine combined. Teens think that because prescription drugs come from a pharmacy, instead of from a shady drug dealer behind the local 7-11, they’re not as dangerous as street drugs.  When taken as directed, prescription medications are usually safe.  However, teens aren’t taking them as directed. 

Many times, kids will take two or three times the recommended dose or combine pills for a faster or more intense high. Teens take pills from several different prescription bottles because they believe their parents are less likely to notice missing pills. At “pharm parties” groups of teens throw all the pills they have in a bowl or bag and then grab handfuls to ingest. Making matters worse, the handfuls of pills are typically washed down with alcohol.

Emergency rooms across the country report spikes in overdoses from prescription drugs.  The most commonly abused drugs are the painkillers Vicodin and OxyContin, ADHD medications Ritalin and Adderall, and anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax and Valium.  Antidepressants, sedatives, muscle relaxers, and mood stabilizers are also regularly abused among teens and young adults.  Prescription drug overdoses can result in coma, heart attacks, seizures, and death.

Part 2 coming soon on what you can do as a parent. In the meantime, view medical lockboxes than can help protect your family.

Lock the Cabinet is a campaign to encourage adults to take all necessary precautions to ensure children and teens are not taking drugs that can damage their developing brains and bodies. Getting high on prescription drugs is dangerous – lock the cabinet to ensure your kids and their friends don’t have easy access.

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Dating Can Influence Your Child's Behavior

Paying close attention to who your son or daughter is dating is more important than ever, according to the American Sociological Review. A recent study shows that dating someone who is friends with heavy drinkers influence one’s drinking habits. In fact, the chance of your child drinking if their significant other’s friends drink is twice as high as if the friends were not heavy drinkers. The effect is even more so than if their own friends or the significant other were into drinking.

This effect happens for a few reasons. For example, your daughter’s friends are going to be different than her boyfriend’s friends and even different than her boyfriend. She is likely going to want to impress his friends, since she knows it is important that they all get along. In an attempt to strengthen the relationship she may take on some of the behaviors of his friends and if that includes drinking, your child could be in danger.

As many studies have reported before, children who engage in underage drinking are more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol later in their life. Children do not understand the limits of drinking alcohol and tend to drink far too much and end up becoming sick and endangering their health. The danger of car accidents while under the influence is a scary fact, and other minor offences, such as tickets, are also of concern.

The years when your child begins to date should be exciting and joyous as you watch them grow up and have new experiences. But it is important that as a parent, you keep an eye on who they are spending time with, including friends, teammates, and significant others. Tell your child that you simply want to meet their friends and get to know them a little. Watch for any signs that their behavior is changing around new people. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to speak up. If you don’t agree with who your child spends time with, let them know and explain your reasoning. Preventative measures could end up making a huge difference in your child’s life.

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Black Wednesday Underage Drinking

It may seem strange to some, especially to parents of new college students, but Thanksgiving Eve has a reputation, and not necessarily a good one: biggest underage drinking night of the year. With so many students returning home from college for what is likely the first time in the semester, they are anxious to get together with their friends. Known to many as “Black Wednesday,” the nickname draws from Black Friday, but also the fact that some people drink to the point of blacking out.

Many parents are rightfully concerned about their underage students drinking during Thanksgiving break. The opportunity to get alcohol during holidays is typically increased, due to availability and the commotion of family gatherings. It’s easy for a teen to slip a few bottles of beer without being noticed.

Even though you may feel that your child doesn’t listen to you (especially if they are college age), many teens report that parents are the biggest deterrent when it comes to underage drinking. Here are some tips to ensure that your teen stays safe during this holiday season:

  • ·         Be a role model. Be sure not to drink excessively, also being sure that family or other guests are mindful of your teen when consuming alcohol.
  • ·         Talk openly with them about the dangers of excessive drinking. Alcohol-related car crash injuries and death increase during the holidays.
  • ·         Remind them they could lose their license if caught driving drunk.
  • ·         Gently remind that you’re concerned about their safety, and are not trying to control them.

These are just a few ways to make sure your children stay safe during the upcoming holidays. Open up communication with your child so that they feel comfortable talking with you about their plans for the holidays.

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How to Get Help for an Addict

If you suspect your child, spouse, or friend is becoming dependent on alcohol or drugs you must do something to help them. Many parents develop a feeling of guilt and begin to wonder, “Where did I go wrong?” One of the easiest routes in handling your relationship with a person struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is to become an enabler, allowing your loved one to continue with their addiction with the support of money, food, or a place to live. It is not easy, but it is crucial that you break this habit and find help for them immediately.

Helping them can save their lives
Getting an addict help can reduce, or potentially eliminate, health problems or injuries associated with the addiction. Therapy and rehab can help ease conflicts you are likely facing with the addict and help them build healthy meaningful relationships. Offering help can also reduce the chance of running into any legal problems, like receiving a DUI or getting caught with illegal drugs.

Know your resources

To start- you must know you are not alone, and there is a vast network of resources for you to use while helping an addict. You can speak with your doctor, a local clinic, or counselors about how to approach the problem. Hotlines and forums are available for anonymous questions and are just a few of the great resources to help those struggling with addiction.

Deal with denial

Even if a loved one claims to not have an addiction, if they show signs of dependence you need to offer them help. They may say that drinking or drug use has not gotten them in legal trouble or trouble at work – but long term use of these substances will almost always negatively affect their health. It is important that you see through these statements and get them help right away.

Be prepared for anything

An addict may say anything to avoid getting help and you need to be ready to deal with that. Educate yourself on the effects of addiction so you do not fall into their excuses or lies about the substances they use. Sincerely express your concerns for their health and well being. Be ready to present consequences if the addict is unwilling to get help (i.e. they cannot continue to live in your house, you will cut all financial ties with them, etc.). Here, you must follow through or your words will have no validity and your loved one may continue to use you to fuel their addiction. If they are ready to accept help you must have something lined up for them immediately. Allowing them too much time to think about rehab or therapy may give them the chance to change their mind, so be ready to get them into treatment as soon as they say “yes.” 

Help yourself

Last but not least, get help for yourself.  Dealing with an addict is not easy and you may have thoughts or feelings you need to express. You may grow resentful of the addict and their previous behaviors if you keep your feelings pent up inside. If you were an enabler, you must learn how dangerous this can be and acquire the skills to avoid falling back into that habit once your loved one becomes sober. Learning how to be emotionally supportive is an important tool to help your child or spouse or friend continue on the road to health and sobriety.

 

 

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