Much has been said about the dangers of illicit substances such as cocaine or heroin. But it is only now that prescription drugs are getting some attention because of cases where they cause harm to users.
Prescription drug addiction is the most underreported and least understood of all substance addictions, and is a growing problem that should be taken as seriously as cocaine or heroin addiction.
This danger typically arises from situations where people use them in ways that doctors didn’t recommend or when they are used by people who never got a prescription for them in the first place.
Still, even when a person has been legally prescribed a certain drug and takes them according to doctor’s orders, prescription drugs can cause dangers at the workplace. Let’s talk about a couple of prescription drugs that should be a cause for concern for employers and employees alike.
Antihistamines cause drowsiness
Allergies are pretty common, and where there are allergies, antihistamines almost always follow. Antihistamines are the most common medication used to treat sore throats, blocked noses, sinus problems, congestion, colds, cough, rashes, and other common symptoms of allergies. While they can be bought over-the-counter, some require a doctor’s prescription.
Antihistamines are generally effective, but they do have this one side effect that could cause dangers at the workplace; they make people drowsy. For someone who works at an office, it is common for them to feel really sleepy at work after taking antihistamines, and some fail to stop themselves from dozing off. Antihistamines, in effect, could affect work performance negatively.
That, however, does not compare to the danger antihistamines pose on workers who operate machinery, drive for a living, or engage in skilled work that involve a number of risks. These jobs require 100% focus, and losing concentration even for just a second by falling asleep could turn a routine day at work into a tragic one.
Employees who experience anxiety attacks every now and then are likely to be prescribed with tranquilisers, which relieve mild anxiety and tension. Normally, after taking tranquilisers, a person would feel relaxed. Sometimes, however, some people on tranquilisers can end up being too relaxed. They lose some of their inhibition and may even become drowsy. Over time, the user will develop a tolerance to the drug and will eventually need higher doses, which increase the level of sedation and the loss of coordination even more.
As with antihistamines, tranquilisers could hamper work performance and pose a danger to those who operate machines or engage in highly-specialised tasks that carry certain risks. Their greatest danger, however, lies in the fact that tranquilisers can be addictive even in moderate doses.
Antihistamines and tranquilisers are by no means the only drugs that could cause dangers in the workplace. To prevent such incidents, employers should educate their workers about possible impairments and how to safely use prescription and OTC drugs. Implementing Drug-Safe induction programs is one way of making that happen. More importantly, employers should require employees—particularly those who do jobs that involve any kind of safety hazard—to inform their immediate supervisor if they have been prescribed by their doctor certain drugs that could cause impairment. That way, the supervisor will be able to temporarily reassign the employee as long as he or she is on the prescribed medication.