Updated: May 24, 2022
Many people think medicines must be safe because they are legal. Or that the directions for use are only suggestions. This is untrue. No medicine is completely safe. All drugs, both legal (prescription, pharmacy or from the supermarket) and illegal, can have serious side-effects.
Medicines taken correctly can have many benefits – they can cure or improve a medical condition or make us feel better. Most people use these drugs appropriately following the advice of the doctor, pharmacist, or directions on the box. But everyone is different and even following the instructions correctly can lead to side-effects that may range from mild to very serious.
But sometimes medicines are abused. For example, the inappropriate use of benzodiazepines, and opioids (“opiates”) such as codeine or oxycodone. People can misuse any medicine by:
Taking more medicine than prescribed or directed on the box
Taking medicine in a different way to what is recommended, such as injecting or snorting
Using medicine without a prescription or ongoing medical supervision
Combining it with other drugs, including alcohol
Sharing medicines with family or friends
Ignoring advice or warnings not to drive, operate machinery or work
By misusing medicines, the risk of serious side-effects is increased. If the medicine isn’t working, don’t increase the dose beyond the recommendation, talk to a doctor or pharmacist.
If taking other medicines (including medicines from the pharmacy or supermarket), make sure the doctor knows before a new medicine is added in. Side-effects can be increased when different medicines are used together. Alcohol can be dangerous with some medicines, so follow all warnings. And of course, only take medicines prescribed for you and do not restart an old prescription without a doctor’s advice.
It is important to know what medicines are being taking and what their possible effects may be. Medicines can have implications for driving, operating machinery, or fitness for work. Doctors and pharmacists can provide guidance. Armed with this knowledge, workers can confidentially discuss any potential impact on work with their employer.
From a workplace drug and alcohol policy perspective, it is important that both prescription medicines as well as illicit drugs, are referenced.
DASA has extensive experience developing and implementing workplace drug and alcohol policies and in conducting workplace drug & alcohol testing. If you would like assistance with your policy, or to find out more about drug and alcohol testing, get in touch today via firstname.lastname@example.org