Employers Need to Use Proper Drug Testing Panels to Fight Opioid Epidemic in Workplace

Opioid

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

Even with the dramatic rise in the use of opioids – which can include the illegal drug heroin and legally prescribed pain relievers such as OxyContin® and Vicodin® – some employers hoping to avoid hiring opioid-addicted workers through drug testing may not know the best type of drug test panel to use to uncover opioid abuse, according to an article from Talent Economy.

In the article entitled ‘What Can Employers Do to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?’ written by Talent Economy Associate Editor Lauren Dixon, several drug testing experts were interviewed about opioids including Dawn Standerwick, Vice President of Strategic Growth for Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a leading background check firm that also performs drug testing.

Standerwick – who possesses extensive knowledge of background screening, drug testing, and occupational health testing – explained in the article that employers “need to recognize that there has been a surge in drug use, prescription drug use in particular,” and that often the drug testing panels they are using may not even test for the most commonly abused substances.

While employers commonly assume a 10-panel drug test will detect opioid abuse more than a five-panel drug test, Standerwick said the 10-panel tests for drugs such as Methaqualone (brand name Quaalude) which is no longer commercially manufactured in the United States.  She advised employers drug testing for synthetic opioids to ensure their drug test panel includes expanded opiates.

Since opioid abuse cost employers nationwide $16.3 billion in 2013 in disability claims and lowered productivity, Standerwick suggested that “business leaders should take proactive measures” with drug testing. Even if companies have a zero-tolerance policy, she explained that just having the education component as part of their program, educating employees, and taking a proactive stance is helpful.

The Talent Economy article cited statistics from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) that revealed most workers’ compensation claims now involve opioid use. A WCRI study of 25 states ranged from 88 percent of workers’ compensation claims in Arkansas involving opioids to 60 percent of claims in New Jersey involving that class of drugs.

The article also cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that showed opioid prescriptions have nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014 and prescription opioid overdose deaths increased similarly during this time period. The complete Talent Economy article is available at www.talenteconomy.io/2017/09/05/can-employers-fight-opioid-epidemic/.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) defines opioids as a class of drugs that includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and legally prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. To learn more about opioids, visit www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids.

Statistics from the NIDA opioid crisis webpage reveal more than 90 Americans die of an opioid overdoes every day, more than 33,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose in 2015, and the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the United States is $78.5 billion a year for healthcare costs, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Drug Testing Solutions from ESR

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), a strategic choice for employers who want accuracy and compliance in their screening programs, offers drug testing services that help maintain a drug free workplace. To learn more about ESR, please visit www.esrcheck.com/Services/Drug-Testing/. For more ESR News blogs about drug testing, please visit www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/tag/drug-testing/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2017 Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – Making copies or using of any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.