Popping Pills: America’s Worst Epidemic & Legally Addressing The Misuse Of Prescription Drugs At Work

Although the United States makes up about 5 percent of the world’s population, it consumes more than 75 percent of the world’s prescription drugs, according to the 2011 UN World Drug Report. This statistic may bring up a few names from your childhood: Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison, Judy Garland; or, more recently, Michael Jackson, Health Ledger, Chris Farley.

But, famous actors and singers are not the only victims of prescription drug abuse. It’s the 16-year old student who got addicted to pain pills after a surgery, the suburban father mixing a dangerous cocktail of painkillers and tranquilizers, or a Michigan mother hooked on her daughter’s Adderall prescription.

A new documentary takes a sobering look at what some call America’s worst epidemic. Prescription drug addiction affects men, women and children of all walks of life. Called “’Prescription Thugs”, this movie is director Chris Bell’s follow-up to his last documentary, “Bigger, Stronger, Faster,” which showed the harrowing role of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

“The subject kind of picked me,” explains Bell to FoxNews.com’s Dr. Manny Alvarez.

“My older brother died from a prescription drug, basically, an overdose—his body gave out from all the prescription drugs he was doing. I wanted to find some answers why that happened to him.”

At risk of revealing spoilers, at one point Bell reveals his own silent struggle with prescription painkiller addiction.

“I was never an addict, I was never addicted to anything. I was always somebody who was into sports. I was a power lifter… I was excited to go to the gym every day,” Bell said.

“But once I was hurt, and on these painkillers, everything started going slowly in reverse.”

But seeking help is not easy. At one point, Bell was taking up to 20 to 30 pain pills per day before he considered reaching out.

“It’s something that you have to come to terms with yourself, it’s something that you have to want to quit and want to get off of,” Bell said.

Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and is now classified as an epidemic by the CDC. As many as 52 million Americans, over the age of 12, have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. Even more shocking, 1 million people have used them non-medically in the past month.

The use and abuse of medications in the workplace is a serious issue. Yet unlike illicit drugs, for which most U.S. employers can test easily and legally, prescription medications present a number of challenges to organizations.

For one, the mere presence of these substances in a drug test does not necessarily constitute an offense, unlike with illegal drugs. And many employees using these medications are protected by the ADA, which limits an organization’s ability to question its employees’ use of such drugs.

This is a thorny area, where federal (ADA and FMLA) and state laws collide. Unfortunately, most employers do not have the fortitude and risk tolerance to enter the storm, even when they know it’s a major liability.

Like Bell and his own addiction, awareness is often the first step. Protect your employees—and your firm’s liability—by taking The Center For Competitive Management’s webinar, “Popping Pills: Legally Addressing Employee Use & Misuse of Prescription Medications in the Workplace,” on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern.

This online course explores best practice strategies for handling this challenging situation both tactfully and legally. You’ll also get the answers to such need-to-know questions as:

  • How should employers address the use of prescription medications by employees in their drug and alcohol policies (if at all)?
  • What should an employer do if an employee cannot perform the job safely while using prescription medications?
  • Can employers conduct drug testing for prescription medications and what are the pitfalls of doing so?
  • What are an employer’s obligations when employees become addicted to prescription medications?
  • Can employees be drug tested periodically after completing drug rehabilitation?
  • Should medical marijuana be treated like other prescription medications?
  • Must employers tolerate the use of medical or recreational marijuana in the states where it is legal?

“It’s tough, it’s a disease where it’s a behavior problem… it’s a brain chemistry problem… and the only way to fix it is to work on those behaviors and sort of modify those behaviors,” explains Bell.

Like people, a law firm firm must acknowledge what’s at stake before it can seek help. Make that happen for your employees today.

 

-WB

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