There is recent research and speculation that there are more employees who are addicted to opiates than previously thought. Because of the subtle nature of addiction, there are more people who are slipping through the cracks. In fact, a recent study conducted that was done in Indiana by the National Safety Council showed the eighty percent of employers throughout the state are impacted by prescription drug abuse.
This study was released just one day after officials in central Illinois launched an initiative to address opiate overdoses from both painkillers and heroin. This initiative includes a comprehensive task force that will be working on the front lines. This comes from an increase in deaths from addictive drugs in the area, with police stating the two people a day are dying through central Illinois due to addictive drugs.
However, while there is intense speculation about the nature of opioid abuse in the workplace, there are no studies that reflect this speculation. Many believe that this is due to loose regulations regarding drug testing, as the state law of Illinois does not require employers to drug test. Even if they did change the law, there are concerns that the vast availability of different opiates would make it difficult to test for all the variations. This could allow more people to sneak through the system.
Chrissy Smith, the Program Manager of the Human Service Center and White Oaks Center, wants to clear up misconceptions regarding opiate users. There is intense stigma regarding the type of people who use drugs, including stereotypes of people using drugs in an alley or sleeping under benches. She reminds people that opiate addiction can strike anyone, regardless of class or race.
"I have seen very professional individuals with stable families and amazing long-term jobs become addicted to opiates," she states, "These are people that you would never think would fit the stigma of drug use."
Her facility treats around 130 opiate addicts every week. She says that opiate addiction usually starts with legal painkiller prescriptions that eventually morphs into drugs like heroin, which are easier to find on the streets. Even as addicts degrade to using street drugs, many of them are able to hold steady jobs and go unnoticed because many opiates can easily clear out of users system within one week even if they were tested for.
The Illinois Work Injury Resource Center does the majority of drug testing for employees throughout central Illinois, testing thousands of people a year even without mandatory testing for employment. There is a standard test that includes some opiates, marijuana, cocaine, PCP, and amphetamines that can be upgraded to include six additional prescription medications. However, many employers are unaware of extended testing options so the upgrade services are not frequently used.
There are other screening options that help to identify opiate addicts, but they are not as comprehensive. There is a database that can be used to show when someone has filled their prescription. Doctors use this system to locate individuals who are filling multiple prescriptions for opiates and help to cut down on doctor shopping for drugs. However, this does not help workplaces who have opiate addicts working for them.