Prescription drug abuse epidemic not immune to the workplace

  • Published
  • By 78th Medical Group
  • 78th Air Base Wing
Prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse has become a national epidemic. The effect of this epidemic has spread into the workplace, as employees are not immune. In fact, according to a national survey on drug use and health, nearly 70 percent of illicit drug users aged 18 or older were actively employed.  

Drug abuse has the potential to negatively affect behavior, impair judgment, slow reaction time, create inattention to details and ultimately result in declined performance, absenteeism, personal injury and even death.  

Many think the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are safer than illegal drugs. However, when abused, they can be just as dangerous and addictive. This is especially true when taking more than one drug. When you take a medication, your body absorbs, transports, uses and gets rid of the drug. These bodily processes can become disrupted when taking more than one medication, even as prescribed. This type of disruption is called drug-drug interaction, and it is of particular concern as it can result in severe unintended consequences.  

Disruption in bodily processes can also occur when drugs are used with alcohol, or by someone who is already impaired by illness, such as those with liver or kidney disease.

What constitutes abuse of a prescription drug?
* taking a medication that was prescribed to someone else
* taking a medication that was prescribed to you for a different purpose
* taking more than the prescribed dose (either more pills or more frequent usage)
* taking in a different manner (crushed/snorted/injected) than was originally prescribed

Many of the prescription and over-the-counter drugs of abuse can also lead to drug addiction. These drugs act on chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters and with repeated use can actually change the brain in such a way that results in a physical dependence on the drugs. Drug addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite the harmful consequences. Consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that your personal risk toward addiction or abuse is minimized, and that the medications you are taking have limited interactions with other medications to include herbal remedies, supplements and over-the-counter drugs.

What to know:
A free base resource for federal civilian employees and their household residents is the Employee Assistance Program at 1-800-222-0364.
Through EAP, employees have access to six free counseling sessions on or off base to receive help with issues related to alcohol and substance use.  

Additionally, the Phoenix Center Behavioral Health Services offers a range of programs for both adults and children. They have locations in Warner Robins at 478-988-1222 and Fort Valley at 478-825-6499, as well as an after-hours contact number at 478-988-7100.   Resources online include: and