Tackling Opioid Addiction In The Workplace

Opioid Addiction

Find Out How You Can Support Your Employees Through An Opioid Addiction. Visit Turn To Help Today.

Opioid use and its accompanying harms is a pressing concern of public health interest, both in Australia and across the globe.1 It’s crucial to understand the scope of this issue to address it effectively.

Illicit drug use, including opioids, can have significant complications for both employees and employers. Studies have shown that illicit drug use is more prevalent among employed Australians than among the total Australian population, with 19% of them reporting its use.2  Further to this, among employed Australians, 7.5% admitted to illicit polysubstance use, which involves the use of more than one substance.2

The impact of opioid addiction in the workplace is complex. It affects not only the individuals struggling with addiction, but also their colleagues, overall workplace productivity, and morale. Therefore, it is essential to approach this topic with sensitivity. With a commitment to finding solutions that can support individuals struggling with addiction, employers can foster a safe and productive work environment.

Illicit drug use in Australia

Why Is Opioid Addiction An Issue That Affects Work?

Opioid addiction poses various challenges for both employees and employers. Its impact extends far beyond personal struggles, as it can have an impact on the smooth functioning of businesses and organisations.

One way that opioid addiction affects the workplace is through a decrease in performance among affected individuals.3 These individuals often find it challenging to concentrate on their assigned tasks throughout the work day. This translates into making more mistakes than usual, missing deadlines, and a general lack of productivity and efficiency, all of which can result in decreased job performance.

Absenteeism becomes another noticeable consequence. Employees struggling with opioid addiction are more likely to turn up late to work or miss days altogether.4 The financial toll is substantial, with an estimated cost of $2.9 billion attributed to illicit drug-related absenteeism.2

Sudden mood swings are another side effect of opioid addiction that can disrupt the workplace.4 These mood swings can have a ripple effect on coworkers and create an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Furthermore, opioid addiction poses risks not only to employee productivity but also to workplace safety. Their ability to perform their job safely may be compromised, putting themselves and others at risk. 

Opioid addiction is a condition that can impact every aspect of an individual’s life, including their work. It’s crucial for employers to recognise the signs of addiction and provide support and resources for affected individuals. Addressing this issue with empathy and understanding can help create a safer and more supportive work environment for all employees.

How Can Employers Help Employees Manage Their Opioid Addiction?

Employers have a duty of care, as outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2011, which mandates that they are to ensure the health and safety of their workers.5 This legal framework underscores the importance of taking proactive measures to tackle opioid addiction in the workplace.

Understanding the profound impact of opioid addiction in the workplace is the first step in fulfilling this duty. It goes beyond just an individual’s health; it affects productivity, morale, and overall workplace dynamics. To combat this, employers can provide training to supervisors and employees to recognise the early signs of drug misuse and impairment.

Another essential aspect is employers reaching out to affected employees with compassion and understanding. Creating a supportive work culture is key, where employees feel comfortable seeking help without fear of judgement. Educating and engaging the workforce on the topic of opioids can break down stigma and increase awareness.

Implementing a comprehensive workplace substance use/misuse policy is crucial. Such policies should be more than just a set of rules; they should be comprehensive, addressing prevention, intervention, and support. Comprehensive policies have shown a substantial correlation with a notable reduction in the likelihood of drug use.6 They should be clear, accessible, and communicated effectively to all employees, outlining not just the consequences of drug misuse but also the available resources for help.

comprehensive workplace policies

These policies should also detail procedures for drug testing when necessary, ensuring fairness and transparency. Moreover, they should emphasise rehabilitation and reintegration into the workforce, supporting employees in their journey toward recovery.

Leveraging employee assistance programs and similar resources can be a lifeline for employees in recovery. Providing them with the necessary tools and support to return to work is vital.

By understanding the impact, providing education, offering support, and implementing comprehensive policies, employers can make a positive difference in the lives of their employees while ensuring a healthier, more productive workplace.

Reach Out To Turn To Help Today

When faced with the issue of opioid addiction in the workplace, it’s essential to provide a supportive environment and access to the right resources. One valuable resource that can truly make a difference is the Turn To Help website. Turn To Help is a platform dedicated to assisting individuals in overcoming addiction challenges. It offers a variety of tools and services that can be invaluable in this endeavour.

One standout feature is the self-assessment tool. It presents a variety of targeted questions for the affected individual. These results can be shared with their healthcare provider, ensuring that accurate information is available to make informed decisions about the best treatment options.

Moreover, Turn To Help makes it easy to find a nearby doctor who specialises in addiction treatment. This simplifies the process of seeking professional help, ensuring that employees can access the care they need promptly.

A workplace that supports employees in their journey to overcome addiction is a healthier and more compassionate one.

References: 1. Australian Government. Institute of Health and Welfare. Opioid harm in Australia: and comparisons between Australian and Canada. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/illicit-use-of-drugs/opioid-harm-in-australia/summary. Accessed 24 May 2024. 2. McEntee, A., Pointer, S., Pincombe, A., Nicholas, R. and Bowden, J. (2022). Alcohol and other drug use: A focus on employed Australians: Part 1: Prevalence and consequences. Adelaide, South Australia: National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA), Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute (FHMRI), Flinders University. Available at: https://nceta.flinders.edu.au/application/files/5016/8723/8146/DOH-Workplace-Report-Part1.pdf 3. New York State. Department Of Health. Opioids: Recognizing the Signs. Available at: https://www.health.ny.gov/community/opioid_epidemic/signs.htm. Accessed 24 May 2024. 4. HRM. The opioid crisis and the Australian workforce. Available at: https://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/australian-workforce-opioid-crisis/. Accessed 24 May 2024. 5. Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (NSW). Available at: https://legislation.nsw.gov.au/view/whole/html/inforce/current/act-2011-010. 6. Pidd, K., Kostadinov, V., & Roche, A. (2016). Do workplace policies work? An examination of the relationship between alcohol and other drug policies and workers’ substance use. International Journal of Drug Policy, 28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.08.017.