Drug Testing for Prescription Drug Abuse Controversial in the Workplace

Prescription drug abuse is soaring in the United States. The numbers of accidental overdose deaths are increasing at an alarming rate with over 20,000 people in the United States dying each year from prescription drug overdoses. The age range with the highest death rates? Studies say 35-44 year-olds.

The number of deaths caused by accidental overdose of prescription medications outnumber overdoses by means of traditional drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

The most common source of the type of drug is opiate drugs, prescribed to relieve pain. These potent painkillers have potential for abuse due to the heroin-like effect it creates. Physicians began prescribing opiate drugs during the 1990s. The possibilities for misuse of these painkillers were underestimated and quickly became the most popular group of abused drugs. By 2007, more teenagers were using opiate drugs than marijuana.

Due to the high number of prescription drug abusers and the health risks it poses, controversy has been created in the drug-testing world. Prescription drug testing laws differ depending on where you are located in the United States.

In one case, a federal court found that is was not an invasion of privacy for employees to disclose their prescription drug use, at the time of a drug test for illegal drugs.

Although another case in a California court ruled that publication of prescription drug use was illegal as part of an exam for applicants and employees. The employer disputed the court, stating it was required to prove if a positive test for illegal drugs has a possible legal explanation. The court found this policy to violate the American with Disabilities Act and an individual’s right to privacy under the California law.

Employees in New York are protected under the Legal Activities Law. This restrains an employer from denying to hire or dismiss an employee for the use of prescription drugs during off-duty hours.¬†Employers could take action under this law, but only if they have “an established substance abuse or alcohol program or workplace policy.”

It seems that as prescription drug abuse is on the raise, legally there is no easy way to determine if someone is abusing pain medication.  In 1988 Congress passed the Drug-Free Workplace Program. This allows employers to drug test employees and applicants focusing only on heavily illegal drug use.  Now over 20 years later the rules and programs have not changed.


One Response to “Drug Testing for Prescription Drug Abuse Controversial in the Workplace”

  1. Pharmaspider.com | August 24, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Vicodin is a opiate prescription drug which is advised by doctors to cure mild to extreme pain. But it is to be consumed only for a prescribed period. However the effects are so soothing that the user tends to continue for some more time. This is the point that starts making him dependant on the medicine. He increases his doses to bring about the same feel, and the moment he stops taking it or the effects of his dose start getting weaker, he experiences withdrawals.