What Workplaces Should Know About Opioid Drugs

Closeup of man hand pouring capsules from a pill bottle into hand.

Canada has one of the highest rates of opioid drug prescription rates in the world. In 2018, approximately 3.7 million people in Canada used a form of opioid, which could include fentanyl, oxycodone, morphine, and hydromorphone. There is an increasing likelihood that someone such as a customer, a supplier, an employee, or a colleague, may walk into your place of business while suffering some ill-effects of taking an opioid medication. In this blog, we aim to give you some tips for how to prevent and handle a situation where someone may be experiencing difficulties due to opioid use.

Signs and Symptoms

In some cases, opioid use can lead to feelings of euphoria, dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, headaches, or difficulty breathing: all of which may make it difficult to perform everyday tasks or regular work duties as usual.

If it is suspected that a person may be impaired or otherwise not fit for work at your workplace, it’s important to know how to address those situations, while ensuring the safety of workers and the first aider. It should be noted that the appropriate care to provide is based on the person’s breathing and level of responsiveness. Emergency Medical Services personnel will have Naloxone kits.

The following points are taken from a Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety article, which has the following suggestions:

What Workplaces Can Do

  • Ensure that first aid responders receive appropriate training and include naloxone kits as part of the first aid response program.
  • Provide education and training on the impacts of opioid use, how to recognize impairment, and how to talk about and address drug use with respect and compassion. Stigma around substance use can prevent people who are struggling from getting the help they need.
  • Provide a mechanism for workers to report impairment in themselves or if they suspect impairment in others.
  • Address the use of prescription medication in its workplace impairment policy.
  • Focus on preventing ergonomic injuries that can lead to the need for pain medication. These injuries can include slips, trips and falls, plus those caused by lifting, working in awkward positions, performing repetitive manual operations, and pushing and pulling.

Find more ideas and resources are available in the full article from the CCOHS.

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