As the children of Brian and Courtney Halye found themselves preparing for school one morning, they began to worry because their parents still had not made it out of their bedroom. It was custom for their mother and father to wake the children--ages 9, 10, 11, and 13. As they peered into their parents' room, the kids saw the lifeless bodies of their mom and dad surrounded by narcotics paraphernalia--dead of an apparent overdose of fentanyl, a synthetic form of morphine more potent than heroin.
"The face of addiction has changed," says Matt McCarty, a board certified physician specializing in pain management and the CEO of Genotox Laboratories, Austin, Texas. "This was a normal, middle-class couple with good jobs, living in the suburbs of a Midwestern town--probably the last place you would look for a couple of drug addicts."
Obviously, neither one would return to his or her job, but the fact that Brian was a commercial airline pilot has lead to speculation of whether he ever took fentanyl--or any other substance--while on the job.
A survey by the National Safety Council, Itasca, III., reveals that 70% of employers say that narcotic painkillers have affected their business. The NSC recommends incorporating the following steps to monitor the use of opioids in the workplace:
* A clear, written policy. Together with a company's legal department, a policy should be put in place, similar to a company's restrictions on the use of alcohol or illegal drugs.
* Employee education. Keeping in mind that the employee-patient relationship is a confidential one, employees still should be educated about the dangers of opioids in the...