In today’s society, prescription drug abuse has become a growing problem within the workplace. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, approximately 2.4 million Americans have misused prescription drugs. This can be attributed to ease of accessibility, doctors prescribing medications for more conditions, and the availability of prescribed drugs on the internet. As a result, prescription drug abuse has resulted in increased action being taken by law enforcement agencies, employers, and medical professionals.
In the Houston area, illegal pain clinics and independent pharmacies and physicians were found dispensing prescription pain medications illegally. Houston has become a leading market for prescription drug abuse as demonstrated in a pill mill raid involving 14 state and local agencies. Houston has since been described as a high intense drug trafficking area and continues to grow. Harris County has become one of the highest ranked areas for prescription drug related deaths.
Despite these alarming findings, there remains to be common misconceptions regarding prescription drug abuse. Although the majority of individuals are able to take their medications as prescribed. For others, prescription drug use can lead to addiction.
This can be a result of many factors contributing to an individual’s drug addiction. Some variables that may result in addiction include: family history, physical abuse, mental disorders, prior use of drugs, and the method by which the drugs are administered. Those who abuse prescription drugs oftentimes believe prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs as they are prescribed by a licensed practitioner. However when prescription drugs are not used as prescribed, the result is often in drug abuse. Some common prescribed drugs that are oftentimes misused include painkillers, sedatives, and tranquilizers. Here are other categories of prescribed drugs that are often abused:
Depressants – Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Sleep Medications
Opioids and Morphine Derivatives – Codeine, Morphine, Oxycotin, Methadone, Fentanyl & Analogs
Stimulants – Amphetamines, Methylphenidate
These forms of drugs treat medical conditions such as depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sleep disorders, anxiety, pain, and obesity.
Signs an Employee is Abusing Prescription Drugs
There are many signs to look for to determine if an employee may be abusing their prescription drugs:
- Changes in Personality -Oftentimes, an individual that is abusing prescribed drugs will have changes in their mood and how they interact with others.
- Recurring Injuries or Illnesses -This is another common indicator an employee may be abusing drugs. This is further supported when an employee provides a vague explanation of their condition or have unexplained recurrences of injuries, illnesses, and pain.
- Psychological Problems– Issues associated with psychological problems to include erratic behaviors, inability to focus or struggles with comprehension, hyperactivity, irritability, and paranoia are common indicators of drug abuse.
- Physical Appearance– Changes in an employee’s physical appearance such as weight loss, hygiene, sweating, chills, and fatigue can be associated with prescription drug use.
- Neglecting Responsibilities - Decreasing performance, increased absences, and tardiness are signs an employee may be struggling with drug addiction.
State law enforcement agencies have partnered with the Drug Enforcement Administration in implementing initiatives such as the pill return initiative in which individuals are able to anonymously return prescribed drugs. Education has also become essential in eliminating this problem.
Law enforcement agencies are implementing programs to educate communities on how to properly dispose of unwanted and expired prescription drugs. Today, across the US, free prescription drug drop off is available.