For decades marijuana was considered the most prevalent gateway drug. Not that all marijuana users moved on to harder drugs; only that the vast majority of hard drug users started out with marijuana.
Now the country, as well as employers, are faced with a new and even more devastating gateway drug: prescription painkillers or opioids.
People feel safe when they’re prescribed a drug by their doctor and don’t always realize that prescription painkillers can take them to the dark world of drug addition. Their quest for pain relief overshadows caution, and before they realize it they have become addicted to a very powerful substance that can destroy their bodies, families, and jobs.
Today, prescription painkillers are fast becoming a top seller in the black market drug world. Patients who can no longer get prescriptions from their doctor are turning to the streets to satisfy their needs. And, some are turning to street heroin as a substitute. Believe it or not, in some places heroin is actually cheaper than black market prescription painkillers.
The medical community is taking aggressive action to reduce opioid abuse. They are creating registries to track patients so people can’t “doctor shop” in order to get multiple prescriptions. Pharmacies are requiring written prescriptions in order to reduce fraudulent prescriptions. But there is only so much they can do.
Employers can step up and help turn the tide on this problem. Through a comprehensive workplace drug & alcohol testing program, abusers can be identified and provided help. This not only saves the employer money on lost productivity, absenteeism, and on-the-job accident involvement, but it may also salvage a excellent employee who has been caught up in this addiction.
In 2015 52,000 people died from a drug overdose in the United States. Of those 52,000, 33,000 died from opioid overdoses. This is only the beginning of the tsunami of death by opioids. We will all have to work together to stop it in its tracks