High on the Job: Fighting the painkiller epidemic

Opioids in the workplace

Not to put your co-workers on the spot, but if you look around your office, there's a chance some of them are popping powerful painkillers and that can impact you.

The Department of Health and Human Services says one out of 10 workers are abusing opioids.  It depends on what you do for a living.  Some jobs have a higher abuse rate than others.

A lot of the jobs that top the list provide you services from restaurants to health care.

Experts say you can help stop this killer epidemic.

“When we start seeing productivity going down, people showing up late, there's usually a reason for that,” says Jay Silbermann, general manager at Kelly Days Firehouse Tavern.

Silbermann says employees must pass a drug test before their first day on the job.  It’s corporate's way to ensure a healthy workplace.

“We do handle cash, and we do handle liquor, so we have to have responsible people and make sure they go through responsible vending as well.  That's important, so our guests are treated correctly,” says Silbermann.

Silbermann says he’s surprised to hear that data shows the food service industry tops the list for workers' drug use. 

But he says there is help for employees to kick the habit.

“We go through and start counseling, just like you would in any corporate account.  We do a verbal and then two other coaching sessions,” says Silbermann.

Gary White, associate director at the Hillsborough County Anti Drug Alliance helps train companies and employees as he says the prescription pain pill epidemic invades our workplaces.

“Substance-abusing employees function at about 67% capacity.  That affects you, it affects your coworkers, that affects the bottom line,” says White.

It can cost companies money, mistakes and lives.

This is a look at the overdose deaths in 2015, just in Hillsborough County:

  • Oxycodone: 34
  • Alprazolam: 43
  • Hydrocodone: 10
  • Methadone: 30
  • Cocaine: 23
  • Heroin: 44

White says it's important for coworkers and employers to watch for a drop in productivity, moodiness and tardiness, and offer help.

“It's killing our loved ones. It's killing our neighbors. You know, I've noticed something and I'm concerned.  Then, allow the person to begin to talk,” White says.

“It's opioids, they’re the gateway to a lot of heroin use,” says Springfield College human services professor Richard Davila.

Davila says when pills no longer cut it or doctors cut off the prescription, workers may turn to illegal drugs.

It just cost Bradenton registered nurse Marius Talos his kids and his license.

Records show Talos swallowed a bag of heroin as investigators took custody of his kids, and he tested positive for the painkillers he'd been trusted to give patients.

“It can't be kept quiet. People need to know that recovery is a good thing and not feel stigmatized,” says Davila.

Drug abuse can happen anywhere. 10News wanted to share that the station employees pass a drug test to get hired, and can be tested for a number of reasons. The company offers an employee assistance program with counseling and treatment referrals.

You can get rid of unwanted prescription medication this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at several locations:

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
CVS: 2109 State Road 60, Valrico
Walgreens: 8398 Sheldon Road, Tampa

Tampa Police Department
Winn Dixie: 2525 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa
Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union: 3815 N. Nebraska Avenue, Tampa

Plant City Police Department
CVS: 2302 James L. Redman Parkway, Plant City

USF Police Department
USF Morsani Center: 13330 Laurel Drive, Tampa

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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