Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Management of Human Resources Associated with Misuse of Prescription Drugs: Analysis of a National Survey

Academic journal article Journal of Health and Human Services Administration

Management of Human Resources Associated with Misuse of Prescription Drugs: Analysis of a National Survey

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Prescription drug abuse or misuse has been a strong public health concern in recent years (Compton & Volkow, 2006). In 2006, about 48 million Americans had misused prescription drugs in their lifetime (NIDA, 2006) and about 7 million Americans are current nonmedical users of prescription drugs (NIDA, 2008). The estimated number of emergency department visits for nonmedical use of opioid analgesics increased 111% during 2004-2008 (from 144,600 to 305,900 visits) (CDC, 2010). As recent literature continues to document prescription drug misuse problems among many Americans (CDC, 2010; Kroutil et al., 2006; Simoni-Wastila et al, 2004; Manchikanti, 2007;

Matzger & Weisner, 2007; McCabe et al, 2009; Fenton et al., 2010), it is necessary to further expand research of prescription drug abuse or misuse in the American workforce.

There are a host of recent studies largely focused on prescription drug problem among the general public (CDC, 2010; Kroutil et al., 2006; Simoni-Wastila et al, 2004; Manchikanti, 2007; Matzger & Weisner, 2007; McCabe et al, 2009; Fenton et al., 2010), but inadequate attention has been focused on employees' prescription drug use problems, although about 7% of the American labor force reported using prescription drugs nonmedically in the year prior to the survey (NIDA, 2008). A recent national estimate suggests (SAMHSA, 2007) that nearly 75% of illicit drug users aged 18 or older were employed either full-time or part-time. The same report indicates that approximately 17% of unemployed were current illicit drug users, while 8.2% of full-time employed and 11% of part-time employed were current illicit drug users. A considerable number of studies document alcohol and illicit drug use problems in the workforce (French et al., 1995; Matano et al., 2002; Roberts & Fallon, 2001; Frone, 2006a;

Frone, 2006b; Register & Williams, 1992; Webb et al, 1994; Lehman & Bennett, 2002), but very limited research on employee prescription drug misuse is available. French et al. (1995) report 17% of employees across 5 different workplaces misusing prescription drugs. Certain health care professionals are at a greater risk of abusing prescription drugs. Some problems linked to prescription drug abuse are reported among physicians (Sethi & Manchanda, 1980; Merlo & Gold, 2008). The 1999 research (Trinkoff et al., 1999) suggests that nurses with easy access to prescription drugs are more likely to abuse prescription drugs. Another study (McAuliffe et al., 1987) reports 46% of the pharmacy students using a controlled substance with a prescription. Surveying highly educated employees (n=504), Matano and colleagues (2002) revealed 42% of respondents reporting the use of moodaltering prescription drugs (analgesics, antidepressants, sedatives, or tranquillizers) and 11% using illicit drugs (cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, or marijuana) in the past year.

Understanding employee absenteeism and job turnover linked to prescription drug misuse is important in the context of human resource management for at least two reasons. First, organizations are by and large concerned about the quality of human capital; in particular employees' risky behaviors because those risk behaviors diminish performance (Serxner et al., 2001) and increase injury or accidents in the workplace (Spicer et al., 2003). Prior research supports the association between work performance and alcohol and illicit drug use (French et al., 1995; Mangione et al., 1999; Bass et al., 1996; Normand et al., 1990). Surveying 1,200 employees at five different worksites, French et al. (1995) reveals the association between illicit drug uses including prescription drug misuse and reduced performance and absenteeism. A recent national survey report (SAMHSA, 2007) also suggests that drug using employees, compared to their non-drug-using counterparts, had higher job turnover, missed work more than 2 days because of illness and injury, and skipped work for more than 2 days in the past month. …

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