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What does addiction to prescription medication mean for the workplace?

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What does addiction to prescription medication mean for the workplace?

A report on the back of a Public Health England enquiry into the dependency on prescription medication has revealed there is an epidemic of people hooked on strong painkillers, antidepressants and sleeping tablets

The report has found that the NHS are prescribing potentially addictive drugs to individuals over a prolonged period of time. Half of the people taking the medication have been on them for over a year and 25% have been taking the medication for over three years. 

What does this mean for the workplace?

The rise in dependency and access to these prescription medicines increases the risk of employees having access to and misusing these medicines, without actually being prescribed them by a GP.

Using these medicines, some of which are extremely powerful, without the knowledge and guidance of a medical professional may well lead to impairment, lethargy and lack of concentration, putting the user and their colleagues at risk of accidents and poor judgement in the workplace.

Employers therefore should be considering including certain prescription drugs in any Workplace Drug and Alcohol policy and testing regime.

Here at Eurofins Workplace Drug Testing we are able to identify an array of prescription drugs in our testing processes which can help employers identify potential risks to an employee, and the workplace. It should be stressed that even when testing positive, employees legitimately using medicines prescribed by their GP have nothing to worry about .

With the increase in availability of the substances highlighted in this report, there is a potential risk of these medicines being illegally and irresponsibly sourced from the street or the internet which then poses a risk for the individual themselves, their co-workers and their employer.

With this recent report in mind, we would urge employers to update Workplace Drug and Alcohol testing policies to include prescription medication such as opioids, gabapentin and benzodiazepines when conducing Workplace Drug Testing. 

If you have any questions about this or would like us to review your current policy please do not hesitate to contact us or call us on 0844 2641 999