To educate employees about the dangers of prolonged use of prescription painkillers, companies might want to share stories that recently came to light from former professional football players.
Retired NFL players have filed a lawsuit claiming the league illegally supplied them with narcotics and other painkillers without prescriptions. Result: complications down the road including addiction.
The players say they were never warned about the potential side effects of the medications. Why did the NFL do this? The players say it was to keep them on the field to maximize profits at the expense of their health.
The lawsuit names eight specific former players, but more than 500 have signed on.
Here are some of the stories that have come to light in the wake of the lawsuit:
- Former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon says doctors didn’t tell him about injuries including a broken neck and ankle. Instead they prescribed painkillers to get him back on the field. McMahon says he became addicted to painkillers. At one point he was taking more than 100 Percocet pills per month.
- Former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Keith Van Horne played an entire season on a broken leg and wasn’t told about the injury for five years, “during which time he was fed a constant diet of pills to deal with the pain.”
Besides addiction, the players say other long-term effects they still suffer from include heart, lung and nerve dysfunction; kidney failure; and muscle and bone disfigurement.
Put another way: For a short-term benefit (staying on the playing field), the players suffered long-term health consequences.
What can employers do?
If you’re reading this, it’s not news to you that abuse of legal drugs can have a serious impact on the workplace.
But your employees may not be as aware of the consequences. Educating them about the potential harmful effects of prescription drug abuse can help to close that knowledge gap.
You can use the stories of the former NFL players to show workers what can happen if they decide to work through the pain with the aid of prescription medication.
From stories we’ve heard and read, it seems it’s also necessary to tell employees that it’s not OK to take a friend’s or family member’s prescription pain pill. If they’re in that much pain that they’d consider taking someone else’s prescribed pain meds, they should see a doctor instead.
Finding out whether an employee has a prescription drug abuse problem is tricky. It’s against the law in many situations to ask employees whether they are taking prescribed medications such as painkillers.
To get through this legal mine field, tap into the resources of the Technical Assistance Center on the Prevention of Prescription Drug Abuse in the Workplace (PAW TA Center). The Center provides technical assistance and resources to meet the needs of specific types of workplaces.
Your workers’ comp insurance company can also help. Some have emphasized identifying long-term users of painkillers.