(NaturalNews) Drug abuse in the U.S. is hardly limited to illegal street narcotics; millions of Americans take prescription medications that can severely impair their judgment and ability to work, and some employers are beginning to take notice. Recently, a woman was let go from her assembly-line position at an automotive parts company because she was taking hydrocodone, a powerful painkilling narcotic, for her back pain.
According to a recent report in The Seattle Times, Sue Bates had legally been prescribed hydrocodone by her doctor. But Dura Automotive Systems, her employer, had also recently changed its drug testing policy to include performance-altering pharmaceuticals like hydrocodone, citing the fact that such medications are a safety hazard. And since Bates tested positive, she was terminated.
According to Quest Diagnostics, a company that provides workplace drug tests, the number of employees who test positive for prescription opiate drugs increased by 40 percent between 2005 and 2009. Just last year, this percentage jumped 18 percent. And data from over 500,000 drug tests revealed that workers tested for drugs after they had had accidents on the job were four times as likely to test positive for opiates than workers tested before being hired.
"It's not nearly on employer radar screens as much as it should be," said Mark de Bernardo, executive director of the Institute for a Drug-Free Workplace, a nonprofit business coalition. "Given the liability for industrial accidents or product defects or workplace injuries involving prescription-drug abuse, employers cannot afford not to address this issue."
But Bates disagrees, citing the fact that she merely listened to her doctor's recommendations and did not commit any crimes. "If the medicine [we're] taking is not good for [us] or the workplace, then there should be some sort of program where they can teach us how that affects [us] or see if something else can be worked out," she said.