Substance abuse is a problem that plagues all workplaces. The abuse of controlled substance painkillers and other prescription medications has spread so widely that such drugs are now considered the second most commonly abused drug after marijuana. Healthcare organizations are particularly vulnerable to workers who abuse controlled substances, as employees may have access to drugs that are usually only available by prescription. On one hand, the abuse of prescription medications is illegal and can be addressed by employers in ways similar to how they address illegal “street” drug use. On the other hand, the use and abuse of prescribed medications may be much more difficult for employers to confront, not only because it may be more difficult to identify and diagnose, but also because workers who are impaired by their legitimate use of medication may also be protected from discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This article (pdf), written by Cathleen O’Connor Schoultz and included with permission from the BNA’s Human Resources Report, provides a useful discussion of some measures employers can take to address the problem of impaired employees while complying with the law.
Nancy Delogu authored this entry.