Illicit Drug Use Declines in Workplace, Prescription Abuse Increases

prescriptionThere is good and bad news about drug use in the workplace. First the good news: illicit drug usage is on the decline. Pre-employment screenings have prevented many people from being hired who have a tendency to use illegal drugs. Random drug screens in the workplace have encouraged those who are more casual users and might pass a pre-employment screen to stay on the abstinent side of life. Since the late 80s, employers have been working to keep their employees safe, including filtering out those who might be using. Mostly, those who test positive are using marijuana. With the country’s lenience on marijuana beginning to show more of a push toward a “pot accepting” society, employers might have to change their policies in regards to the currently Schedule I drug.

Now, the bad news. As illegal drugs are being prevented, another is category of drugs is climbing at an alarming rate. Prescription drug use is on the rise, and has been over the last decade. One company, who has been doing pre-employment drug screens of employers, has noticed a change in their statistics from the 80s to 2012. Between 2002 and 2012, positive tests for amphetamines, which include legal prescription drugs like Adderall, have more than doubled. The employer also noticed a 172 percent increase in positive tests for painkillers like Vicodin and Oxycontin.

Why Opiates Are So Abused

Prescription drugs have been a widespread problem throughout the United States for decades. The pharmaceutical industry brought in a combined income of $800 billion in 2012. That number will continue to rise as the availability and prescriptions of drugs rises in 2013. Of the many prescription drugs available, opiates are the most widely used. Opiates are prescribed for people who are suffering from moderate to serious chronic pain, usually after surgical procedures. Opiates are available in pill form, as liquids, and even in a patch to be absorbed into the skin. Side effects from opiates include:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea

Though opiates are a low addiction risk if taken within prescribed guidelines, they are very widely overused. Like many other prescribed medications, opiates are given out to friends and family members like over the counter medications such as Tylenol. If the opiate is not prescribed to you, you should not take them. Signs of overdose include:

  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Severe nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, or weakness
  • Slow Breathing
  • Seizures

People have been abusing opioids for a number of years. As pharmaceutical medication gained popularity, prices of prescribed medication increased. For those without insurance, this made opioids unaffordable, so they had to find an alternative. That alternative was heroin.

Processed from morphine, heroin is a popular opiate sold on the streets. The basic elements in heroin are prescribed as other forms of medication. As heroin is an opiate, it mimics the effects of opioids that are prescribed as pain killers. This fact turned those who could not afford the spike in opioid prices to heroin – and the availability gave opioid addicts all they needed at a cheap price. Just like opioids, heroin is addictive with regular use. There are specific traits heroin users exhibit when under the influence, in withdrawal stages, or experiencing and overdose. Those under the influence have a dry mouth, “nod” in and out of consciousness, and may experience lapses in mental awareness. The dangers of heroin addiction include collapsed veins, liver disease, pneumonia, cellulitis, and various heart lining infections. If you choose to take an opioid for pain, be sure you are using your medication as prescribed.


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