Starting a Conversation About Opioid Misuse and Addiction

Know the Signs of Opioid Misuse and Addiction

If one of your employees gets hurt on the job, their doctor may prescribe opioids to help with their pain. These powerful drugs have strong effects on a person’s body, including a feeling of euphoria. This “high” is what can lead to opioid misuse or addiction. It’s a problem fueling the opioid epidemic in the United States today. In 2017 alone, over 11 million people misused opioids by taking them incorrectly, more often than they should or without a prescription.1
 
Knowing the signs of opioid misuse and addiction can help you spot a potential issue in one of your employees.
 
It’s important to remember that seeing signs doesn’t guarantee your employee is misusing opioids. But if you notice a change in their performance, it can give you a reason to reach out to them privately.
 

Prepare for Your Conversation With Your Employee

As a supervisor, if you suspect someone may have a substance use problem, first, plan a private conversation. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends you keep it focused on their work performance and don’t be accusatory.2
 
Because you’re framing the conversation around your employee’s performance, you should have data to back up your claims. This can include:
 
  • Attendance
  • Performance reviews
  • Records of missed deadlines
Talk to them from a standpoint of caring and compassion with an emphasis on health and safety. Avoid blame and judgment. Shatterproof offers these conversation starters:
 
“It appears that you’re very distracted lately, and your performance is suffering. You missed last week’s deadline.” 
 
“Is there something going on that we can help you with?” 
 
“I care about you as a person. I can see that you’re struggling. What can I do for you?”
 

Be Direct, But Not Accusatory in Your Conversation About Opioid Misuse

During your conversation, you should explain to your employee why you’re concerned about their performance. Give them the opportunity to explain their behavior, Shatterproof suggests. There may be legitimate reasons for the symptoms, such as health problems or maybe a stressful family situation.
 
Having a discussion focused on work, performance and safety gives employees an opportunity to share information.
 
Here are some tips from Shatterproof to keep in mind while having a conversation:
 
  • Be a good listener
  • Don’t make the conversation about you
  • Pay attention to their tone and body language
  • Keep the conversation positive
Remember to keep your main points focused on their performance at work. Emphasize that you’re trying to find out what’s causing the change and want to help resolve it.
 
If you think your employee isn’t being honest, don’t press it.3 Just let them know what your expectations are and that continued performance issues can lead to disciplinary actions.4
 

Provide Information About Employee Resources

If your employee opens up to you during your conversation, let them know there’s help available to them: “We are here to support you and your family. May I help you find resources the company provides?”
 
If your company offers an employee assistance program (EAP), talk about how they can use it. If your company doesn’t have an EAP but want to offer support to your team, you can: 
 
 
THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information contained on this website is not intended to be a substitute for, or to be relied upon as, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This website is for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
 
 
The Hartford shall not be liable for any damages in connection with the use of any information provided on this page. Please consult with your insurance agent/broker or insurance company to determine specific coverage needs as this information is intended to be educational in nature.
 
The information contained on this page should not be construed as specific legal, HR, financial, or insurance advice and is not a guarantee of coverage. In the event of a loss or claim, coverage determinations will be subject to the policy language, and any potential claim payment will be determined following a claim investigation.
 
Certain coverages vary by state and may not be available to all businesses. All Hartford coverages and services described on this page may be offered by one or more of the property and casualty insurance company subsidiaries of The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. In TX, this insurance is written by Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd., Hartford Casualty Insurance Company, Hartford Lloyd’s Insurance Company, Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford, Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company, Twin City Fire Insurance Company, Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company and Hartford Fire Insurance Company. In Arizona, New Hampshire, Washington and California, the insurance is underwritten by Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, Hartford Casualty Insurance Company, Hartford Fire Insurance Company, Hartford Insurance Company of Illinois, Hartford Insurance Company of the Midwest, Hartford Lloyd’s Insurance Company, Hartford Underwriters Insurance Company, Maxum Casualty Insurance Company, Maxum Indemnity Company, Navigators Insurance Company, Navigators Specialty Insurance Company, Pacific Insurance Company, Property and Casualty Insurance Company of Hartford, Sentinel Insurance Company, Ltd., Trumbull Insurance Company and Twin City Fire Insurance Company. The Hartford® is The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including Hartford Fire Insurance Company.
 
The Hartford® is The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. and its property and casualty subsidiaries, including Hartford Fire Insurance Company. Its headquarters is in Hartford, CT.
 
* Customer reviews are collected and tabulated by The Hartford and not representative of all customers.