Unfortunately, most people assume that prescribed drugs are completely safe to use whilst at work. This is because prescription medications are usually taken based on the expert advice of a doctor. The assumption is that a doctor’s ‘say so’ is enough to rely on to ensure safety in the workplace.

Whilst there are many kinds of prescription medications that alleviate symptoms associated with pain, nausea, colds and the flu, the most widely used medications are based on opioids. Opioids are a chemical that relaxes the body and relieves pain. The problem is that opioids are basically a pharmacy grade heroin, legally produced in a laboratory.

Common medications such as Nurofen Plus, Panadeine Forte and Mersyndol are all derived from opioids. Although they come with specific dosages and instructions from your doctor, they can be misused, over-dosed and in some cases, used by people other than the prescribed patient. Long term use of prescription medications can increase a patient’s tolerance. As a result, the standard dosage may no longer provide the relief first experienced, requiring more frequent or higher dosages.

All these situations that endanger your safety, the safety of your co-workers, and the safety of all your employees whilst on-site.

It is not just prescription medications that may pose a risk to health and safety. Many body-building supplements can contain illegal substances, such as methoxytryptamine and dimethlamylamine that are found in products like Black Bomb or Jack 3D. Even anti-smoking and weight loss products can produce chemicals that react to workplace drug tests. And then there are other medications that are detected by drug tests, but that cause side effects that impair a worker’s ability to concentrate, drive or operate machinery safely.

Prescription medication abuse is one of the fastest growing drug problems in the world. So, chances are, it’s likely to be a growing problem within your workplace as well.

For employers, it is recommended that you educate your workers, and that you ask your employees to voluntarily disclose any medical conditions and the prescription medications they require. This way, you can make informed personnel decisions that help to ensure workplace health and safety for your entire team.