Safety and OSHA News

In drug treatment, on methadone: Is he a safety threat?

jury-box

A company decided to take back a conditional offer of employment after it found the applicant was a recovering drug addict. A lawsuit followed.

Here’s what happened: Donald Teaford applied for a job at Hussey Copper in Leetsdale, PA. Teaford was offered a production job at the plant which fabricated copper products. His offer was conditional. First, he needed to pass a physical and drug test conducted at an occupational medical facility, Heritage Valley Health System. All production jobs at Hussey were considered safety-sensitive positions.

During his physical, Teaford didn’t tell the nurse that he was being treated by a doctor at a clinic for dependency on opiates, including Oxycodone, and that he had been prescribed and taking methadone, a drug used to prevent withdrawal symptoms in patients who were addicted to opiates.

His urine tested positive for methadone.

Dr. Daniel Nackley, the Medical Director at Heritage Valley, contacted Teaford, who then said he was under treatment and taking methadone. Nackley received a letter confirming Teaford’s treatment and methadone prescription.

Nackley tried to contact the doctor who prescribed the methadone but wasn’t able to do so.

Hussey’s human resources department looked into possible accommodations for Teaford. However, Hussey’s head of safety said all the production jobs were safety sensitive and an accommodation wouldn’t be possible.

Based on the information he had, Dr. Nackley recommended Hussey should not perform safety-sensitive work.

Hussey’s safety manager decided that Teaford’s offer had to be rescinded because he wasn’t medically cleared to perform safety-sensitive work.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit, alleging that Hussey discriminated against Teaford because he was a recovering addict in a supervised rehab program when it withdrew the conditional offer of employment. It seeks damages and back pay for Teaford.

The EEOC argues that Hussey failed to conduct an individualized assessment of Teaford, as is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Hussey filed a motion to get the case thrown out, claiming that the Teaford’s physical and drug test, along with the analysis from Dr. Nackley, was an individual assessment. It also argued that hiring Teaford would have posed a high probability of substantial harm to himself or others.

The court’s decision: It would not throw out the lawsuit. It will now either have to go to trial or be settled out of court.

The court noted Dr. Nackley acknowledged that every situation involving opiate use is unique, and that a neurological exam was available to make an individual assessment. But a neurological exam wasn’t performed on Teaford.

For that reason, the court said Hussey didn’t conduct the required individual assessment on Teaford.

The take-away for companies: You can set qualifications for safety-sensitive jobs. However, medical professionals have to perform their due diligence to disqualify applicants from a job.

Cite: EEOC v. Hussey Copper, U.S. District court, W.D. PA, No. 08-809, 3/12/10.

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Comments

  1. SafetyC says:

    If this company has to pay a penny to this guy, we all should just throw out the drug free work place and pack it in. The whole point in doing the pre-employment drug test is to avoid problematic people that could cost the company money or worse yet an injury. The EEOC needs to get a reality check (along with many other gov’t groups currently) a drug addict in treatment or not is more often than not a result of a very bad choice not a disability. WAKE UP AMERICA it is time to close the door on the deadbeats!

    • What about when the drug use stemmed from a work injury? Especially when that employee has no insurance or benefits? In example a part time employee sustains an injury, gets addicted to pain killers then takes the steps to better themselves and get help and you think that person should be denied full time employment? I’ve been on methadone for 3 years, working in one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. I’ve never had a any accidents. It dosent impare me in any way.

  2. Do the companies have any protection at all? So if they would have hired him and he hurt himself or others then it is workers comp and a ton of money will be paid out. It sounds to me the company did everything according to procedure. Our offer of employement states the same thing, however, we do not do physicals on new hires. If I receive a positive drug test they are automatically disqualified.

  3. Sad State says:

    Sounds like another lose – lose for a company that is just trying to provide a safe work environment for its employees. I guess “The good of the many outweights the good of the few or the one.” is not reality. Frustrating that all the different government agencys and branchs create mandates the conflict with one another and the private sector is just suppose to pay and pay and pay …

    • I had an extremely similar situation in my workplace. I’m a commercial electrician and my job requires me to be in situations that could result in the death of multiple people every single day if proper procedures are followed. My company hired a helper to work with me and didn’t let me know that he was on methadone. This guy was off the walls he was running around jumping over stuff on the construction site and couldn’t focus on anything for more than 3 minutes. I got him fired after a week even though he was technically “Approved” for work. He was risking my life every single day. Sorry if this offends anyone but if you get yourself in the situation where you are addicted to drugs and are recovering you have no business doing ANYTHING where safety is a concern PERIOD! This is risking the lives of others because of your bad decisions in your own life.

  4. Jeb Boyd says:

    Maybe he should have been honest about his issue in the first place.

  5. BirdsEye says:

    Another fine example of socialism! How about this…when he gets his act together than he can have equal rights and be represented as an equal by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Until then, he is a potential danger to himself and others. OSHA requires an employer to provide a place of employment free of recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause serious physical harm to employees. If the jobs are truly safety-sensitive jobs, then the guy is a hazard. Maybe the EEOC should talk to OSHA and battle out what’s “fair”.

  6. Whatever happened to the concept of sobriety and personal responsibility? When did it become a company’s problem; or obligation for that matter, to have to accept the employ of someone who was irresponsible enough to get hooked on opiates to begin with? “Employment at will” is a dead issue anymore. Are we now going to have to include addicts and drunks into our staff quotas to be EEOC compliant? This isn’t just a safety issue, it’s employment law gone mad! What business did this moron have taking a physical when he knew he was on methadone? Of course the EEOC comes to his rescue, because addiction is considered a sickness, a disability, a condition…not a character defect (the way it should be classified). What a silly nation we are…

  7. Safety sensitive position = no drug use is allowed. Methadone is a drug = no employment at a safety sensitive position. What is the issue here?

  8. Seemed like the company would have/ should have discovered that he was a recovering addict in the interview process…???

  9. Good for Teaford. Here is an individual who is getting his act together and was grounded before he even started. I understand an addict is an addict, but frequent unannounced drug testing would have been solved some of the issues that Hussey had. I do not promote law suits, we are a sue happy nation, but in this case where employment is scarce and employers have the upper hand I think it is justified.

  10. Y’know, I hate to say it, but I agree with Steff. Drug-Free Workplace is referring to ILLEGAL drugs. This individual was past that stage and was simply on a prescription. We aren’t physicians, so we can’t make the decision of whether he would be safe on duty or not. A job analysis should’ve been sent to his doctor, along with a question about whether he could safely perform the job.

    It’s a hassle, but it is the ADA.

    • Max Melendez says:

      I appreciate your comment you’re right everyone that’s on methadone is not an addict some of us was prescribed opiate medication as for me I was in a really bad car accident where I I fractured my back and a doctor prescribe me opiates Percocets my insurance is no longer so now I have to pay for my methadone out of pocket and I function very well with this medication you wouldn’t even tell that I’m on medication I’ll get up every morning and I go to work I’m having this issue now because I applied for a new job and this doctor seems to not be educated on the opiate crisis that is in the tri-state area but I will get this job and if they don’t give me this job I will be suing the company

  11. Employers have the upper hand??? Do you know how much money we spend every year on workers comp?? I have over 45 locations across the US and all these state laws are geared to protect the employee, NOT THE EMPLOYER. And we wonder why they move to Mexico

  12. Coltsfan George says:

    To Steff:
    I agree that Teaford seemed like he was trying hard to get his act together, and I commend him for that. But someone trying to better themself, I feel would let their future employeer know of the current treatment they are recieving. A dead give away is “before we hire you, a physical and drug screening is required”. Those words alone should have sent up some red flags. Even during the drug screening, the med’s use was not mentioned. The companies (Hussey) fault? I think not.

  13. marty88210 says:

    This begs the question once again: How is this any different than the medical marijuana issue? One should be OK and the other not? Besides, the way the regs read it’s OK to have a little drug or alcohol in your system, (below the cutoff levels) so use whatever you want, but not too much. Further, I have never been able to ascertain from ANY MRO or government study like THC and alcohol: at what blood level of an opiate indicates that a safety sensitive employee is under-the-influence AND unable to be safety sensitive?

  14. Drug Free workplace?

    -No allergy medications?

    -No antibiotics?

    -No insulin?

    -No medications at all as they provide a risk to the safety of the organization?

    Safety sensitive positions need not be ruled out because a person identifies they have a problem and get help.

    Then when they are in treatment for the problem they loose the ability to continue their recovery?

    Medications that treat a condition rule out employment?

    High Blood Pressure meds?

    Cholesterol medications?

    The error here is the prospective employee was not upfront and candid about his treatment and was caught. We have an expectation and it is expressed in writing on the application as well as discussed in the interview that prospective employees are upfront and candid about any medical treatments they are required to take.

    We do not hire if you are not upfront on your application and do not disclose information regarding a treatment be in antibiotics or methadone. Then you have presented a falsification on an official document and therefore you forfeit employment. That is if it is plain in the interview and on the application that disclosure is mandated due to the safety sensitive nature of the work and that the failure to disclose could eliminate the candidate then the organization is in a strong position.

    It is a form of discrimination to not hire someone for a MEDICAL PROBLEM if reasonable accommodation can be made.

    There are many conditions in the human experience that require ongoing treatment and some forms of employment is no appropriate to folk in those situations but to in essence refuse employment to someone who is in treatment is not permitted.

    The issue of poor judgment is just not a good comparison for opiate addiction. Addiction to opiates can come from a variety of medical problems that require pain meds and the addiction can set in before the condition or illness is taken care of.

    I am surprised the people working in HR do not understand the above and seem to have such closed minds in this area.

    The above implies that someone who is in treatment and hopefully in recovery are second class citizens and because they have a problem are not equal to other folk.

    Are the recovered mentally ill also in essence second class citizens?

    Because of this that is why there have to be laws that prevent discrimination.

  15. Jeb Boyd says:

    Here’s the thing…..this person may very well be in recovery, but he has not come far enough to understand that there will always be consequences for his actions for the rest of his life. He screwed up, wasn’t up front about his issues, and got caught. What you learn in recovery is that you accept the damage done during your addiction and accept that sometimes doors will not be open to you that are open to people who have never used drugs. Yes, it’s a disease, but part of dealing with that is accepting that some people do not understand it and will not accept it as a disease. That’s just how it is. This simply is not a discrimination case. This is a case of an addict who has not been in recovery long enough to be free of the methadone, or to accept that at this point in recovery that a lawsuit is not the way to deal with his disappointment. He needs to understand that just because he’s making the effort does not mean that he doesn’t have a long way to go before he proves that he’s an acceptable, responsible, and productive member of society. You don’t sue people because they aren’t ready to trust someone who has a proven track record of bad choices in their life. This is actually a pretty good example of how not to deal with disappointment in recovery.

  16. marty88210 says:

    Several commentators have stated that the plaintiff should have informed the company that he was a recovering person………WRONG. Better read your ADA again. If that information request was on the employer’s application form….ADA VIOLATION!! Besides a collector is prohibited from providing any drug or medication information on only 1 of the 5 copies of the CCF that are distributed. That one copy is the donor’s and that information is relegated to the reverse of their copy.

    It’s pretty evident that you can have ADA changed, just contact your nearest Congress Person and let them know your desire. They’ll listen to you just like they listened to you about the new & improved healthcare legislation.

  17. sheralroh says:

    Last time I checked, the employer was unable to ask a prospective employee any medical questions, so how can the employer find out if interviewee is on methadone… The way we have our drug screen set up is that they would not show any insulin or tylenol, only addictive type drugs, codeine, oxycodon, methadon, etc. These people don’t have a disability, they are recovering from a life choice – addiction. They made the choice to start using drugs, so why should everyone else be responsible for them getting off drugs. And who is to say that he won’t fall off the wagon and begin taking drugs again. Give me a break. A disability is asthma, loss of arm or leg, a birth defect, not a recovering addict. When is this country going to stop enabling the losers.

  18. Sheralroh, Methadone is not an illegal drug and granted it is a person’s choice to take drugs in the first place but addiction is not a life choice, it is actually a genetic issue. Back on the subject, I also believe that Teaford should have been honest, but who’s to say that Hussey would have even given him a chance to prove himself. If the doctor released him to perform “safety-sensitive job” then the fact that he is on methadone should not have any bearing what so ever on his performance. How many people out there are on antidepressants? Does that mean that they have to inform their employers? Does this make them unsafe? Can you imagine a person who forgot their antidepressant one day and came to work maybe be on an emotional rollercoaster and cause havoc including being unsafe? Should the employer know to have an extra supply so these people can get their “pill?” This whole issue is on safety so does consuming methadone make someone “unsafe?”

  19. Genetic or not, it was his CHOICE to take drugs. My family is full of alcoholics but it was my choice not to drink. It’s all about choice. If you make a bad choice, you should be held responsible for that choice. I had a guy here that was on methadone treatment. It was amazing to see his progress. He admitted that he made the choice to take drugs and he was ready to take the consequences of what he did. Good for him. My company decided to work with him, but we did place restrictions on what machines he could operate. He was ok with that.

  20. BirdsEye says:

    Genetics are an important factor in determining who might be susceptible to addiction, however, susceptibility does not mean inevitability. There are many other factors to consider.
    I prefer to think that everything you do in life is a choice. You might not be able to control the outcome or ramifications of your decisions, but the decision was all yours. The alternative would be to find something or someone to blame for ones poor decisions.

    In addition, Teaford is simply trading one drug addiction for another. Which drug will they give him next to get him off the Methadone?

  21. Any Prescription drug that causes impairment would bring liability against the employer if they were used in a job where people had the potential to be injured.

    I made this point with medical marijuana…the same with apply with methadone. If it is known to cause impairment, then a user is not suited for employment in safety sensitive job.

    To the employer whose facing a lawsuit: why can’t they subpoena a OSHA employee and ask in court how the “new OSHA” would treat an employer who hired someone who uses methadone and then injured himself or others?

    It is obvious that we can’t count on the government to do what is right under any circumstances. Even when a company wants to do the right thing, there is always another government agency that actively undermines that effort.

    Like someone else said, Mexico’s ADA (MDA?) isn’t quite so stringent.

  22. As the responses have been pouring in I had to think to myself…”there has to be more to this than meets the eye”. There has to be some sort of mitigating factor that we missed in Mr. Hosier’s story. The story was just too unbelievable as it stood. I went to the case file…I was wrong, and there wasn’t any other factors.

    Teaford was not an accident victim who was prescribed a narcotic and unintentionally became hooked; he bought them illegally, in spite of his exemplary past. This was a very dry case to read, with very tedious digressions from the point. From what else I was able to gather, the employer did everything by the book when the results were disclosed. They really got the raw end of this deal.

    What are we coming to when the government can dictate whom we must hire and who we can’t hire?

  23. BirdsEye says:

    If you’re not recognizing it for what it is…….it is called SOCIALISM !!!

  24. Ok I understand all these comments including the bite about Socialism, but the case comes down to discrimination or not. Was Teaford discriminated against because he is involved in a drug recovery program? Hussey was ready to hire him, sent him an offer that was contingent on a physical and drug test. He passed the physical he essentially passed the drug test because methadone is NOT an illegal drug/medication, but because many people know that methadone is a medication used primarily in drug rehabilitation, Teaford’s offer was rescinded without a neurological exam that would have confirmed his ability to perform a safety sensitive job. . That is the crux of the matter. Hussey wanted him or they would not have sent an offer, he had to have had something they were interested in. I too am very tired of government interventions but in this case I believe the company was wrong.

  25. Such an unfair stigma surrounding methadone. My fiance is going through the same exact thing. He was a successful buisness owner of 8 years. and one day driving home some guy decided to have a stroke in the car in front of him while they were doing 75mph on a major highway. He could not avoid the accident because the guy was swerving all over the place in front of him. His truck flipped 3 times with him hanging out the windshield and stuck in the seat belt. he was a passenger, the driver died, the guy with the stroke died and my fiance is called a walking miracle by doctors. He litteraly was crushed in every place you can imagine and paralyzed cause his spine was severed. after a year and a half in the hospital and a hefty addiction to pain pills with a steel cage holding his entire back together so he could walk he finally came home. however, the surgery and hospital stay were more then what his insurance would cover. the doctors sued him and took every thing he owned leaving him with nothing. he has a preexisting condition so he cant get health insurance and is in pain so badly every day of his life. the nerve damage is so sever he does not sleep. he convults all night long as the muscles cramp around all his bones. but he still has to work to make a living. he needs continued steroid injections and surgeries. his teeth were completely shattered. and he is lucky to be alive. so now with no insurance and all his money gone what options is he left with. doctors wont treat him with out insurance. so the next best thing he could do was go on the methadone program in order to function. his broken teeth and the stigma surrounding methadone because of people like the ones on here get in the way even more. no one even cares what this man went through or what options he has. he is on methadone so he is just a junkie and nothing more. it makes me sick. everyones situation is different. and yes, people are scared to tell employers that they are on methadone. for what. they give the same reaction as what many have given on here. right away they just peg him as a junkie. it cant be anything else but that. we have met several people who went through the same thing. how are you supposed to keep a roof over your head in that situation.
    Even the people on it who are recovering addicts.. its sad. no one knows what these people went through. what there options are in life. i knew a girl that became a junkie back in high school because her parents were. thats all she ever knew. there was no hope for her. no one to tell her that she might have a chance in life. It was normal to her. when she got old enough and figured it out by meeting others in life and seeing how they did things outside of her home life, she turned to methadone. No one ever claimed methadone was a cure. it is only supposed to be a replacement therapy and also used for pain management. Methaodne if monitored by doctors, does not produce a high. you would not be able to tell most people were on it except for the fact its in there urine. its rediculous.. when are people gonna except that not all people on it are on it for being junkies? and what about the people that are on it for being junkies? they are trying to get help. they do have jobs, families, school, and its not that easy just to take the month or 2 out of life in order to KICK a habit. so they are trying to help themselves. they should be punished the rest of there lives for there mistakes? Many of them were only teenagers making those mistakes.. they are adults now and still crusified for there past..
    as for the employee above.. would it have seriously made a difference if he was upfront? Im sure he knew this would happen and thats why he didnt. If someone is qualified for the job then a legal medication should not get in the way of it.
    And no one said anyone should be responsible for peoples choices to get off drugs. As long as they do not test positive for any illegale substances then its none of anyones buisness what they do what there life. methadone is not an illegal substance. And if thats the case, they need to add xanxax, and every thing else that half this country uses for anxiety and “stress”. Some one made a bad choice in life, so thats it, they should never have another chance again. One day, it could be you. Look what happened to my fiance. Never say Never.

  26. Jeb Boyd says:

    Tanya, you need to get your emotions out of the discussion. Yes, your situation is sad, but what does it have to do with the fact that in the majority of cases where someone on methadone is in fact, a recovering addict in treatment? Part of what goes along with recovery is facing the consequences of your actions. It’s been brought out that this man’s situation is exactly that, and instead of quietly accepting that, and moving on, like he’s supposed to in a responsible path to recovery, he’s expecting the worl to trust and have faith in him though he’s not proven at all that he’s entitled to the smallest bit of that trust yet. In fact, with this suit, he’s doing the exact opposite. That this company should have to bear the brunt of his lack of acceptance for a situation is grievous. He needs to grow up, suck it up, admit that he’s likely not a good risk, and move forward, in an adult manner, and get on with his life.

  27. As someone with firsthand experience with MMT, the first thing I want to clarify is this:
    Methadone, when used to treat opiate addiction, and taken in the prescribed, stabilization dose, does NOT impair cognitive ability, motor function, or logic. The very basis of why methadone has been successful in treating opiate addicts is because it works in a time released capacity- rendering it incapable of producing feelings of euphoria or, in laymen’s terms, unable to get you high.
    Now- someone who has never taken methadone before, who takes a large enough dose, may experience marked drowsiness- but that’s why Methadone Maintenance Clinics (MMT) follow strict regulations that entail starting every new patient/opiate addict off at the very low dose of 20-30mg, regardless of their height, weight, or tolerance level to opiates. From there, each patient is seen by the clinic physician on a weekly basis, and given the small increase of 2 -5 mg once a week, until they are “stabilized”- meaning they’re feeling normal- not in acute physical withdrawal from the sudden lack of opiates in their system. From that point on, there is a blood test called a peak and trough, that measures the serum levels of the methadone in the patient, to ensure their dose is of a therapeutic level, and not so high as to cause drowsiness.

    There has been a lot of propaganda in the press lately about the dangers of Methadone- the bulk of which is directly related to a few celebrity deaths that were caused by the mixing of methadone and alcohol, or methadone & other medications. What is not so well known is that NONE- ZERO- of those cases involved opiate addicts taking methadone in a methadone maintenance program. All of them were the result of a personal physician prescribing methadone for pain, to patients who abused the medication by taking it with other drugs, creating a lethal reaction. The Harrison Drug Act made it illegal for physicians- general practitioners- to prescribe methadone to patients for opiate addiction. Only MMT clinics, which are strictly regulated, may prescribe it for addiction. MMT clinics require frequent, SUPERVISED, random drug screens (so anyone on methadone for opiate addiction cannot be abusing other meds, or they would be kicked off the program); as well as one on one counseling, group treatments, state required classes, state required physicals and blood tests, as well as anything else the individual’s counselor feels they need. They must complete treatment plans and goals on a monthly basis, demonstrating they are moving forward with employment, housing, etc., and they are not permitted to take many medications, even when prescribed by a physician, if there is any chance of an interaction. For example, benzodiazepines are well known for their ability to interact with methadone in a way that induced euphoria- (i.e., a buzz)- and are a major no-no. The MMT clinic will prescribe another medication that will not interact, if necessary, but using the benzo’s will result in being kicked off the program. A general practioner, on the other hand, can prescribe methadone to whomever he sees fit for pain management, and there are no other regulations. So in all honesty, an MMT client who’s following their program is probably one of the best employees you could have- the clinic takes care of all the work for you.

    I’m assuming we’re all familiar, but in case not- opiate addiction, unlike other drugs, causes a physical dependence. If an addict suddenly stops using opiates, they become severely ill. Methadone is an opioid agonist- not an opiate, but a synthetic drug that works on the same receptors in the brain that opiates do, and therefor “tricks” the brain into thinking it’s getting opiates.
    There is a lot of science behind it- but the long and short of it is that our bodies produce endorphins- natural pain killers- in small amounts, as needed. Opiates- drugs derived from the poppy plant- (heroin, vicodin, Darvon, oxycontin, morphine, dilaudid, etc.)- when taken, cause an influx of these endorphins. When a person takes opiates on a regular basis, the human body, which is extremely adept at conserving it’s natural resources- recognizes that the person is providing them with more than enough synthetic endorphins through opiates- and the body stops producing it’s small amounts. So when an opiate addict suddenly stops using opiates, the body goes into an endorphin-deficiency, causing the person to become very ill.
    Until the last decade, addiction was not recognized as a disease. Since then, the medical community has found evidence of “addictive” genes, in the form of THIQ- a chemical produced from opiates & alcohol by certain people thought to contain the addictive gene. Those without the Addictive gene don’t process the opiates or alcohol the same way, and therefore, do not turn any portion of them into THIQ, the way a person with the addictive gene does. THIQ is believed to be part of the reason that an addictive-prone person develops such strong cravings & is unable to stop using, compared to the non-addictive prone.
    While it’s more or less accepted by medical professionals, the educated, and the open minded that addiction is now a disease, the stigma of it is still perpetuated by the fact that, unlike, say, cancer- this disease of addiction will only become active if the “addict” makes the cardinal sin of using opiates- or alcohol- in the first place. As an a recovering addict who spent a decade addicted to heroin- and who has since been sober almost a decade thanks to MMT- I do agree, I some ways, that it’s a disease, but one we “dug our own grave” in. I don’t blame anyone, or anything- including genetics- for my bad judgment. I abused drugs- I was young, I was stupid, I made a mistake.
    But I also don’t know a single person who can say they’ve never made a mistake either. And today, through hard work, thick skin, and a lot of dirt under my nails, I’ve managed to dig my way out of the hole I dug, and I’m a mother, a wife, a business owner, and a valuable member of society.
    The bottom line now is that it’s done- the mistake was made, I can’t undo it- but I CAN start over. And for me, starting over meant taking methadone to treat that addiction, just like a diabetic takes insulin. But wait, you say- a diabetic isn’t at fault, right? Well, sometimes they are. In fact, many people with type 2 diabetes have diabetes because they are overweight, didn’t eat right, didn’t take care of themselves. And lung cancer patients who smoked- people with high cholesterol and high blood pressure who usually made some poor dietary choices- and so on and so forth. We don’t treat them the same way though. So what’s the rub?
    Here’s the main issue with Teaford: he was less than honest about his situation.
    I can say, first hand, it’s not easy finding a job, an apartment, or people who treat you human when you’re in recovery. But over the years, I’ve found, honesty is the best policy. If I apply for a job and don’t tell them, and they later find out I’m on MMT, who looks bad? Me, for concealing it. If I’m not doing anything wrong by being on MMT, why am I trying to hide it, right?
    But in the same breath, I also need to say, for every 1 job that appreciated my honesty and recognized me as a woman who was looking- and working hard- to get a second chance- there were 9 who thought I didn’t deserve one, b/c I was a no good junkie.
    So what do you do?
    I see countless people who don’t make it, on a regular basis. They aren’t thick skinned enough, or driven enough, to look those 9 in the eyes and say, “Thanks for your time. I guess I’m not the right fit for the position”. They got frustrated, they get depressed, and they give up.
    On one hand, it’s survival of the fittest; social Darwinism at its most basic- who has the stamina and grit and will to keep on keeping on, and who’s just too weak to keep trying?
    On the other hand, it’s also ignorance. Ignorance, miseducation, stubbornness, and close mindedness. In that regard, it’s up to those of us who DO have the will to educate the world about what MMT and addiction is, and the PROVE we DO deserve a second chance.
    When someone like Teaford comes along, they muck it up for us. By lying, he perpetuated the stigma, that junkies have something to hide, sober now or not. He took us two steps back for the one step forward we made.
    Can I understand why he did it? Sure. Every time I go to a doctor, every time I go to rent an apartment, every time I had to apply for another job I was overqualified for I face the very likely possibility that the person sitting across from me will completely change their opinion about me the minute they hear I used to be an addict. The difference for me is, I’d rather not work for someone, or go to a physician who thinks so narrow mindedly anyways. Why? They’re not the kind of person I want in my life- often, those small minded opinions on addiction carry over to other things like race, fiscal situations, politics, and god knows what else. I’m fortunate enough that I managed to find something I love to do that allows me to be my own boss, and not have to worry about working a dead end job for some close minded creep that I’m ten times smarter than, for a pittance. Sadly however, that’s usually not the case for most people- (in recovery or not)~ and THAT is why it’s so imperative we educate people.
    If a person understands how addiction works, and they have educated themselves on both sides of the coin, but still feel addicts are the bane of the human population, then that’s their right. I don’t necessarily think that it’s fair that business owners have no say over who they can or cannot hire either~ which I needed to say before everyone started stoning me as a “socialist”, lol. It used to be a man- or woman- got a job- and kept it- on the merit of the work they put in; not on anything else. A good employee should have a level of professionalism that leaves unrelated things outside the work place- and in that case, they can be judged solely on their work performance, and not their personal life. I frankly don’t care if my employees want to drink or smoke at home, or what their credit looks like, or who they were ten years ago, as long as they’re on time, professional, and do their job well. Doing the job well does mean not coming to work high, or under the influence of chemicals that could impair their motor skills or endanger others- MMT- methadone maintenance treatment for opiate addiction, taken properly- doesn’t do that.
    The lack of communication is what keeps this kind of thing going- as I mentioned initially, the MMT clinics do most of the things the employer wants to do with their employees- random drug screenings, warrant checks, physicals, etc. If they were smart, employers would encourage potential employees to be honest about their situation, and in doing so, could ask the potential employee to sign a release of information that allows the employer the ability to communicate with the employee’s MMT clinic, to verify they’re passing their random drug tests, following their program, and remaining at therapeutic levels that don’t cause drowsiness.
    While some may feel this is an invasion of privacy, I see it slightly differently. As someone on MMT, who’s stayed clean 10 years with it, I have nothing to hide- so if allowing potential employers to ask about what I’m already doing right means I get the job- and maybe even the opportunity to show someone that not every recovering addict is a bad person- then I’m game, and I imagine a lot of other addicts in recovery would too. It’s got to be better than getting turned away 9 out of 10 times because of stigma, right? Sometimes those roads we take make us stronger- more determined, and much more aware of what the important things in life are. Who do you think will do a better job for you? It’s a shame more people aren’t aware of that.

  28. Jeb Boyd says:

    Erin, I applaud your hard work, determination, and good sense. You therefore know as well as I, and other addicts in recovery that acceptance of our situation stops at us in the real world. Every time someone outside our world accepts us, and gives us a chance, it’s Grace, NOT our due. This man has demonstarted unequivocally by his litigious actions that he is NOT in fact, ready for a job of a sensitive nature, because he chooses to confront a situation of his own making in an anti-social, “Oh, Poor me!” type of attitude rather than accepting that he made a couple of mistakes that caused this job opportunity to be retracted. “Honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness”, right? It’s not the job of someone who is reviewing candidates to examine thoroughly the ins and outs of both sides of the methadone controversy, and yes, it is controversial, it’s their job to ensure that there is the least amount of risk involved in a candidate for hire. Yes, under the perfect, ideal circumstances methadone treatment is reliable and safe, but then in order for the comapny to ensure their safety, they would need to take the time to review his program, and that’s not reasonable. This man is perfectly capable of applying for this job *after* he completes the program. Then he will have demonstarted that he has the wherewithall, and commitment to a proper life course. Why should anyone else trust that he can make the long term commitment when he’s not demonstrated so himself for long enough to have come off the methadone? It’s not reasonable. You know yourself that the path back to social acceptability is a long and arduous path. You also know that trying to shortcut the hard work necessary does no one any favors. This man needs to learn from yet another mistake he’s made and move on with his life. At this point, every step he takes down this path furthers the myths that addicts cannot come back.

  29. The Masta says:

    Methadone is a medication that is prescribed by a Practicing M.D. and everyone is protected under the HIPAA and ADA. Nuff Said…

  30. Exhuasted says:

    I hired a guy on methadone. I have been babysitting ever since. He wrecked my vehicles. Comes in with his eyes rolling back in his head. I have lost customers. He has slurred speech. He can’t perform work duties. It is far worse right after his dose. I will definately start screening and never hire someone on methadone ever again. The clinic keeps him on it far too long for profit. I feel sick that this company did the right thing and the courts are too stupid to realize it. People can be killed from some driving on methadone. It should be outlawed from my past year experience.

  31. More than meets the eye says:

    If the addiction is a one time thing the individual is trying to recover to make a positive change, they deserve a chance…that is not the case here. There is a long history of addiction; he was deceitful in disclosure, and not willing to be accountable for his actions. This company should have every right…NO, has an obligation to protect itself and the employees. You have to wonder; what is the driver for him being on the methadone program….is it by his choice, by necessity. Ask yourself this, would you want your spouse or child working along side Teaford? If they did, and were injured do to his inability or negligence who would you sue…Teaford? No, you would sue the company that hired him and put your loved one in that situation. Personally, I think he deserved nothing from this company; however, whatever they paid is probably cheaper than what they could have been sued for if they had hired him.

  32. “Exhausted”, I can assure you that if your employee was behaving in this manner, there was more on board than methadone. As Erin noted, methadone does NOT cause those type of symptoms in stable, tolerant patients. He’s taking more than methadone–probably benzodiazepines, from what you describe. I cannot emphasize enough, this is NOT the way methadone affects stable patients. That is why they use methadone, as opposed to other opioid drugs, in treatment.

    As for the clinic keeping him on methadone “far too long, for profit”, wrong again. A careful reading of Erin’s excellent post would have explained that many if not most long term opioid addicts have sustained permanent impairment of the ability to produce natural opiates (endorphins). Many physicians believe that evidence supports the idea that a majority of opioid addicts were deficient in endorphin production even before they began using drugs, causing them to suffer from severe depression, anhedonia, anxiety, physical exhaustion and extreme irritability. These folks were often using opioids not as a way to “party down and get high” but as a means of self-medicating an imbalance of the brain chemistry. And even if this were NOT the case before they began using, it is usually the case afterwards, as the damage to the brain’s ability to produce endorphins becomes permanent.

    For this reason, methadone treatment is not “time limited” any more than we limit the time people take insulin for diabetes, or lithium for bi polar disorder. The success rate for those remaining ON treatment is higher than with any other modality by far–about 65% to 90% free of iillicit drugs, depending on the quality of the clinic. However, for those leaving treatment, the relapse rate is sky high–about 90% within the first year. Clinics therefore would be medically remiss to urge and encourage patients to leave treatment.

    Not only that, but most clinics have a lengthy waiting list, and even those that do not have no trouble whatsoever replacing a departing patient the next day. Therefore, the idea that methadone clinics must hang on to these patients by hook or by crook so they can get their money is completely without backing. They are NOT losing ANY money if a patient departs treatment. The ONLY reason for encouraging patients to remain in treatment is because it is the right thing to do, ethically speaking. We don’t accuse doctors who treat diabetics of keeping them hooked on unnecessary insulin to keep that money rolling in, and this is just as ludicrous.

    Lastly, To Jeb Boyd–you stated that every time someone outside our world accepts us and gives us a chance, it’s “Grace”, not our due. I disagree.

    People who suffer from the disease of addiction have a genuine medical disease. Oftentimes, as I mentioned, this imbalance in the brain chemistry is present even before the drug use begins. Many people across a wide spectrum of lifestyles and classes suffer from this disease.

    People who have gone to the tremendous effort of getting their lives back together and are doing well in treatment do deserve some recognition for that. If a person were morbidly obese, for example, and therefore a tremendous health risk to the company as well as being impaired in their ability to do their job, one could scarcely blame the company for refusing to hire them.

    However, if that same person had managed to overcome their poor eating habits and perhaps received treatment for any sort of glandular disease contributing to their problem, and had lost all the excess weight with the help of treatments or medication or surgery or whatever, and had maintained this for some years, would you then view them the same way? Would you say that this person had no right to expect people in the “outside world” to accept them and that if they were somehow offered a job, it was “only by grace”? That they should never expect, no matter how long they remain at a normal size, to be treated as a normal person?

    I understand, Jeb, that you likely come from a 12 step background. However, MMT is not a 12 step program. The philosophy of treatment is different, and it is in no way a religious/”spiritual” program.
    We could likely argue for months on the merits and efficacy of each but that’s not what we are here to do.

  33. So what if someone has a aneurysm! Are you gonna say they can’t work either this not right everyone has the right to work! Anything can happen at anytime with anyone!

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