Signs and Risk Factors of Opioid Misuse

Opioids and Addiction Risk

As a business owner, you strive to create a safe environment for your employees. But accidents happen. Your employees may get sick or hurt from their work, and their doctor may prescribe opioids to relieve their pain.
These drugs have a potent effect on the body and brain. It’s estimated that 30% of Americans have been prescribed opioids, with primary care providers accounting for nearly half of all dispensed opioid prescriptions.1 Because of opioids’ powerful effects on a person’s body, the likelihood of dependency to the drugs increases after a five-day period. After taking opioids for just two weeks, 1-in-4 patients will become addicted.2

Risk Factors for Addiction

Some people may have a higher risk of misusing opioids than others. Why? Because, according to nonprofit Shatterproof, there are risk factors that can make someone more prone to addiction, such as their own biology, environment and development.

Biological Risk Factors

According to Shatterproof, the biological risk factors of addiction include a person’s:
  • Genetic makeup
  • Brain characteristics
  • Psychological factors
There’s no addiction-causing gene, but a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder is four times higher if their parents have had an addiction.3 Genetics influence brain development, such as tolerance, which can impact how opioids affect a person’s body. And if they’re dealing with psychological issues on top of that, such as stress or clinical depression, it could make someone more prone to an addiction, according to Shatterproof.

Environmental Risk Factors

A person’s surroundings can also increase their risk of substance misuse, including their work environment. Making changes to create a safer work environment can reduce your employees’ risk of getting injured. For example, if your employees aren’t using safe equipment or proper ergonomics, it can increase their chances of getting hurt on the job. And that can increase their chances of getting prescribed opioids for pain.
You can also ask your workers’ compensation provider to provide data on claims within the last year to see what kind of accidents or injuries happened at your workplace. Then, you can use this information to update your business’ safety policy. Your workers’ comp insurer may have programs to help you change your workplace. For example, our risk engineering team works with customers to identity risks and creates a safe work environment.

Recognizing the Signs of Opioid Misuse or Addiction

Being aware of physical, biological, and psychological signs and symptoms of addiction can help you help your employees. If one of your employees is misusing or is addicted to opioids, you may see some signs or changes, according to Shatterproof. Here’s what you should keep an eye out for:
  • Physical signs, such as a change in their weight, appetite, grooming or how they talk.
  • Behavioral changes, such as a decline in work performance, increase in accidents, or having legal problems.
  • Psychological signs, like unexplained changes in attitude, sudden mood swings, or a lack of motivation. These may be harder to see than physical or behavioral signs.

Have a Conversation

Although some of these signs are harder to see, knowing what to look for can help you know when starting a conversation about opioid addiction might be appropriate. You can have a private conversation with them if you notice a decline in their work performance. Depending on how your conversation goes, you can give them resources and encourage them to visit a health care professional.
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