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Pain Medications at work

I work in a small veterinary office where everybody knows each other well and we all talk openly about our personal lives. Earlier this week, I had mentioned to my manager that my Dr. had increased my dosage of pain medications before the weekend. I also told her that I had no issues/adverse effects with the medication change.

I was informed the following morning that I was being relieved of the responsibility/duty of performing professional dental cleanings, one that I have performed for nearly a year. I was told that it was due to the fact that I have not been as efficient as the other technicians that are licensed and have either been doing it longer/had more training. Needless to say, I was devastated. I had to leave work because I could not keep it together.

After a night to regroup, I returned to work today with a mission. I averaged time spent on this task between all technicians, only to find that I was not the least efficient worker in this aspect. With this information, I am led to believe that my employer is taking this action, not because I'm inefficient, but because I'm taking this pain medication.

In the past, when I've had an issue with a medication's side effects, I have self imposed my own restrictions. But with these new medication changes, if anything, it has helped me become more functional in the workplace.

Has anyone gone through a situation similar to this? How would you handle it? I'm absolutely livid about the whole ordeal. I want to confront my employer with the facts, but I'm afraid I'll get too emotional and shut down or blow up.


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,878
    but in large firms, they specifically state that you are not suppose to be working while you are under the influence.
    Now, thats the key word, under the influence. For some, a Tylenol make mean that, for other 40mg of Oxycontin may not.

    But we are not the ones that judge this, its our employer's responsibility. I would imagine that any job that has customer interactions would be very strict when it came to any pain medication.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • scinmyheartsscinmyheart Posts: 76
    edited 12/19/2013 - 5:10 AM
    Loose lips sink ships

    In my working for a large company for the last ten years while taking opiates, nothing has ever come up...but you would not be able to tell any difference, and more importantly I do not discuss my personal business with my co-workers...it is none of their business-and if I have some "busybody" probe, I tell them so
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,878
    edited 12/19/2013 - 5:28 AM
    but so much depends on the line of work that you are involved with. If you are in any of these

    • Customer Service
      Handling of Fragile Equipment
      Direct contact with customers (ie medical oriented)
      Government work
      Law firms
      Professional driver
    If for any reason a problem comes up in which they need to do an investigation on you, medical records can easily be obtained. IF they then find out you were performing one of the above type of jobs and did not notify your immediate management chain you could be into more hurt and pain than you ever bargained for.

    Just used this as an example. Lets say, your grade school bus driver is a spinal patient. So, to get through the day, they must take a number of muscle relaxers as well as pain medications. Would you want your child on that bus? Or if that bus driver has an accident that kills a number of children - what then? So they didnt tell their supervisors that they were taking those medications.

    I am just saying it is not always black and white. Pain medications at the work place can lead to serious problems.

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • i have had some issues with pain meds and work. as some of you know i teach and after my first surgery i was open about my meds and my accommodations my dr wrote for me. i had a person at hr take over my case and any issues i had were looked into. but on the other hand. some administrators used this info against me. i had to leave a conference because i could not sit in the chairs offered. so i left after asking an hr person if i could. she said yes then i got a nasty note from the head of special ed about walling out. i wrote a nasty note that special ed teachers are supposed to be advocates for disabled people, young or old and she was a hypocrite for this note. i also said she sould have been aware of my accommodations. she did not answer me. then a person whom i don't get along with wrote a complaint about my meds and how i was too stoned to work. she knew me for 3 years and did not complain but t got on her case about something then she complained. i now have a dr note stating that i can work under meds and it would not affect my working with kids. keep your rear covered with meds but if i had to do it over, i would not mention meds at all. by the way i do not take them in front of the kids and only by myself or during a break. too many jerks, .... heads or whatever out there for my taste.
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • smofmossmofmo Posts: 7
    edited 12/19/2013 - 8:51 AM
    It seems that there are some pros and cons of letting employers know about the medications you are on. Unfortunately, what's done is done, and I can't retract what I told my manager. The issue I have with this, is that they've known about my issues from the very beginning, and were aware I was taking medications to help relieve the pain.

    The only reason I mentioned the increase was because we are a tight knit group, and OSHA recommends that employers know about any potential medications that can interfere with safety. I'm taking oxycontin 30mg ER, BID, as well as 10 mg immediate release QID/PRN. With this dose, I can somewhat control the pain while working. I remain clear headed on this medication.

    If you were in my situation, would you think a note from my PCP saying my medications are closely monitored/ I'm taking meds appropriately is needed? Should I drop the issue? I'm deeply upset by the actions my employer has taken and I feel punished for trying to be a functional employee. I feel that my career and reputation has suffered because of these baseless allegations.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,878
    I know when I was taking that level of medication, I wouldn't let myself work. One thing about being clear headed and quick to react, but it terms of what?

    When ever their is the safety of individuals involved, and if I was the employer, I would let a person taking that much work in the capacity they were doing. So, I can see where your employer is coming from.

    I know you feel you are being signaled out and perhaps to an extent you are... but if you ever had to go to court based on an incident, no jury is going to find, your medication intake to be baseless allegations.

    I am just telling you like it is, where the legal system is. Dont have to like it or not

    I understand the need for medication to being to be a functional employee. The other option would go in short term disability Its hard sometimes when you look around and you know you are a good worker and that there are others that should be taken out of their assignments flat out.. but you want to work, you will deal with pain to work...

    Its really a mater of balance. I do not know enough about the details of the legal aspects of this. If you wanted to carry further, you might want to contact a lawyer who specializes in these areas.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • smofmossmofmo Posts: 7
    edited 12/19/2013 - 10:03 AM
    I understand that for some, this amount of medication may cause a hindrance in one's ability to work. For me, the Oxycontin helps with the pain but does not cause any issues with my ability to work. The baseless allegations are the fact that my employer has stated my job performance is not efficient. I have proof that I am no less efficient than any other employees performing the task. As for medications, I had more focus/attention issues taking Lyrica, at which time I limited my duties (with my employers knowledge) until I could safely get off of the medication. As for the 10 mg immediate release, I do not start taking that medication until after my dental cleaning responsibilities are complete for the day. Not because I'm concerned that it will cause issues with my abilities, but because my Extended release works well enough for 5-6 hours.

    Short term disability is not an option. I do not have that coverage through my employer as we are a small business. No person ever needs to just "deal with pain." I have the right to be pain free in all aspects of life, even in my work environment. Nobody should have to deal with pain because of others' ignorance of pain management. If there is an issue with my medications interfering with my work performance, you need to have proof that what you're saying is true.
  • After I've cooled down a bit, I do appreciate everyone's insight. I understand that this is a touchy subject. It's just one I never thought I'd have to be in. I'm going to talk with my manager and practice owner tomorrow and let them know my concerns, and give them a chance to honestly tell me theirs. I'll keep you updated on how things go, so that maybe no one else will have to go through this.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,878
    if I caused an uproar. I just wanted to lay things out on the table. I dont judge anyone (unless something is directed specifically to me)

    It will be good that you can sit down with the owner tomorrow to go over your concerns. Hopefully they will be understanding. Just based on what you have communicated here, your work performance, ability to get the job done is not the question or the issue.

    They may be, what I said in one of my earlier posts was protecting their interests from a legal point of view

    I do hope that things go well for you.

    Also, as Jon (terrror8396) posted, I also take pain medications while I am working. Years ago, the medications were a lot higher, but honestly, in the 70's and 80's, what matter was getting the job done, thats it.
    I am retired and working part time as a wine/beer/spirit retailer. I was the environment I started back in the early 70's and now after retiring from the corporate world, I am going back to my roots. But without the narcotic pain medication that I take daily, I am not sure how effective I could really be.

    Good luck tomorrow.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • K61KK61 Posts: 20
    edited 12/20/2013 - 12:18 PM
    but to inform my employer. I work for the government and must drive for part of my job.
    I was required by federal statute to have my prescribing doctor fill out a form listing
    name, amount, and possible impairment of medications I am on.
  • Hi, Sorry your work is giving you issues about your medication. Some jobs do not allow you to take any narcotics (scheduled medications). These jobs are DOT (Department of Transportation). For example, if you take a pre employment drug test and you have a prescription for the medication you "pass" even though of course you test positive. With a DOT drug test you fail. Like the person above said, I wouldn't want my child's (even though I don't have children- but if I did) bus driver on narcotic medication. Even though my "narcotic" medication does not make me high sometimes it makes me forgetful and tired.

    I work in a restaurant and it states in our employee handbook that we need to disclose to our manager if we are taking any medication that may compromise safety or job performance. It also states that all medications must be in the original bottle and locked in the office. I recommend not volunteering information. My manager knows I take medication but that's all he knows. Also, I do not keep my medications that I need to take during my shift in the office or in the bottle. I keep them in my pocket or hidden in my car. There are people in and out of the office all day and I don't need people stealing my meds or even snooping.
    ACDF C4-5 June 23rd, 2011

    Another surgery in the near future. I am 26 years old.

    Current Meds- Norco 7.5/325, Cymbalta 60mg, Gabapentin, Adderall 20mg
  • I am sorry to hear of your struggle at work!

    I am also a veterinary technician working in a small (11 employees) private practice and know all too well how the clinic dynamic makes your situation a unique one.

    When I first started pain management for degenerative changes, disc bulges at C3-C4, C4-C5, and right foraminal stenosis with moderate nerve compression, I had a one on one with the practice owner. Initially she wanted me to take a few days off, but when I came back and she saw that my abilities were not compromised due to medication use, the conversation stopped there.

    How is your time average with your dental prophies comparing to the other techs? I would ask why your performance wasn't discussed prior to your changes in medication?

    Depending on your practice owner, this may work itself out, or it may cause more of a stir. Its all about how far you want to push it. Only you really know your practice manager.

    Either way, when I was first diagnosed, I was put at the front desk to work reception shifts and I was devastated. I am one of two dental technicians at our practice, and am working toward my VTS in Dentistry, so I know all too well the love of working on the procedure team.

    Keep us posted, and good luck with your conversation!
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hi smofmo,
    Good post for conversation, and I do sympathize with you but I can also appreciate the problem it may bring up as Ron said depending on the career. I am very low dose meds that I function just fine on. I have been on some that I did not, recognized this, and decided myself I could not produce to my capabilities so I quit them. Short term memory was compromised also.
    I really understand your situation and I really wonder what I would do. I am self employed but my career does involve the safety of others. We all can make mistakes, meds or not, we are human. Imagine making a mistake, you were not under the influence, but accused of it. Sure blood tests could confirm that but…..
    Thanks for the post, sure opens ones eyes.
    take care,
  • i have been upfront with all of my bosses about the nucynta er that i take, mainly because i operate all types of warehouse equipment, and should i have an accident, it will result in a drug test.i highlighted the part of the printout from the pharmacy that stated [do not drive,use machinery, or do any activity that requires alertness until you are sure you can perform such activities safely.] they were fine with it. i do work with a person that was on oxycodone, he was slurring words so bad, that they asked him about it, and he was finally honest with them, but he was sent home for the day, and not to return back until he had a note from the doctor, one of the bosses actually gave him a ride home that day. now this same person is taking morhine sulfate, the oxycodone he no longer takes, it was for a shoulder surgery, but he takes the morphine sulphate for his neck, now he is slurring again quite often, and i know he has not told any bosses at work, wish he would, but that is his business.
  • dealing with special ed kids, it would be hypocritical for my principals to go against me because special ed teachers are supposed to be advocates for people with disabilities. so if they got on my case about my meds, they are going against being advocates for people with disabilities especially since my dr's note stated that taking my meds does not interfer with my teaching and my working with kids. like i have stated before, i do not take meds around the kids or my co workers. i will go to the bathroom or my car or the nurses office. kids who take meds have to have a note from a doctor and on file with the nurse. so do i, with nurse, and HR, and my principal. my favorite one is a co-worker went around before my last surgery to fix a broken disc which broke due to my work not adhearing to my accommodation note from my dr. of course, i could not prove it. but the co-worker said and spread the rumor that i was having back surgery so i would not have to be evaluated that year. i made a big and i mean a big stink about that rumor and worker who said it. that is the trouble with teaching, i like the kids and working with them, but some of the teachers, well you know.
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • thoracic spine painthoracic spine pain Posts: 566
    edited 12/21/2013 - 1:17 PM
    If you work for government Dept in Australia you must disclose your medications to your employer. I worked face to face with people everyday, the Dept I was with was are very strict on drug abuse.

    I had an extremely complex job so could do it because I had been in the same job for 15 years before my accident, knew most of the left field stuff and knew the regulations and guidelines off by heart, in fact I was part of the team who wrote the education guidelines and designed the forms, also was part of the test team for the education databases. I had a great communication network between departments which had developed over the years. If there was something big on I would often work weekends and nights and never claim overtime.

    If I had not been honest with my employer I could have have effected my entitlements, so if you work for a large company please check the guidelines about non disclosure. Before I left they transferred me to another position that I could do with my hands tied behind my back, it was kind of them, for the same money. The only problem was I didn't realise there was so much travel involved and could not do all the travelling and driving. It would have been a dream job before my accident. No staff to look after for the first time in my career.

    Sorry to digress but please check out your guidelines on disclosure. If you don't disclose treatment or medications - you could lose everything.
  • I lost my job to spinal fusion,and meds, the comp ins said they would not cover me I was replaced.lost my insurance,.
  • dbarbeau48ddbarbeau48 Posts: 316
    edited 12/22/2013 - 4:27 AM
    In January of 2006, I had to restrain a student who was a danger to herself and others. I was the principal of a vocational high school. During the process, I was repeatedly hit in the back as I twisted and turned to avoid being hit. A month later I developed a spinal infection from a bone chip that lodged in my spinal cord. After having an emergency laminectomy and then weeks of PT to relearn how to walk again, I returned to work. I was still a mess, wearing one of those "turtle shell" braces and on alot of pain meds. My superintendent knew what meds I was on. Long story short, I lasted until March 7th of the next year, missing work only when I had MRI's every 2 months showing another disc had disintegrated. I met with my super and told her I could no longer do the job to my satisfaction. I was in constant pain and in a light fog from all the pain meds that allowed me to remain upright. A month later I had a 5 level lumbar fusion to stabilize my spine. I never went back to work and retired at the age of 58.
    I guess my point to all this is if your pain meds alter you in a way that effects job performance, you need to make a decision. If you don't, the powers that be above you will be forced to make that decision for you.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • catfishmanccatfishman Posts: 185
    edited 12/22/2013 - 5:47 AM
    totally agree with you Dick, the guy i work with has been thinking about going out on disability, we get short and long term. the long term pays 60% after 6 months, i do not know how it works if you get on ssd also, but his surgeon even has told him he should consider not working anymore.
  • I am not up on work laws and if people are required to tell what meds they are on. I know the law is the law whatever it is, but it is really individual. I am on a very high dose of meds and I don't think anyone would know it. We had some friends over for dinner and I knew one of them was on pain meds and she literally fell asleep in her food. Her husband kept trying to wake her up. She slurred something terrible.

    It kind of reminds me of the topic whether we should drive or not on meds. I always laugh because NO ONE wants me driving IN pain. I am a horrible driver in pain because I am unfocused and hurting. I drive much better medicated.

    If it was me, I would probably pursue it with your manager. Maybe have a talk with her and ask her(or him) if they would be open to a letter from your doc stating you are capable to do the dentistry work. It's worth a try although you will sort of have to confront them on the fact that your job performance isn't what they told you it was. You can always play the dumb card. Say that after they told you this you went and looked at your records and you are not worse than the other people so you don't understand why they made the decision they did. That way they won't feel accused of anything.
  • The FDA required drug insert states "You system will adjust to the dosage". Lessened or reduced side effects can be read into that statement. In a pre employment drug screen you are cleared if you have a prescription.
  • I don't tell anyone about what I take period. I really try to go easy on my rx during working hours, I get 3 Percocet 10/325 per day so I have to make that last so I don't run out. I don't operate any machinery at work and rarely have to drive anywhere. So far we've never been asked what prescription drugs we take.

    Diagnosis: Thoracic facet syndrome & cervical and thoracic radiculopathy from car accident trauma.
  • Things have been very hectic around here, but I've finally got a moment to decompress and give you guys an update. After the demotion at work, I met with my manager and practice manager. I discussed with them my concerns about their decision to release me of the most important (to me) aspects of my job. I shared the statistics that I researched over my lunch break a couple of days previously.

    I told them I felt their decision was made due to the comment I made regarding my increase in medications. They insisted that the decision was made prior to the comment, although there was no confirmation or write up backing up their position. I shared the information that I had gathered, showing their allegations to be baseless. The response was what I expected; they disregarded the information and told me that it would not affect their decision. In fact, I was further punished for "wasting my time" gathering the information. They said it was concerning to them I would waste the time gathering that information rather than "accepting their decision." I was also punished for asking my co-workers if they had concerns about my ability to perform my job.

    The two-week notice of resignation went in the next day. I called and accepted a job that I had previously declined a month prior. I've been at my new job for 3 weeks and couldn't be happier. I've moved to a desk job, which unfortunately hasn't changed the amount of pain I'm in, but I'm not stuck so I do make sure I move around often. I'm able to set my own hours, I can go home if unwell or make adjustments to my schedule for dr. appts and such.

    I'm still very disappointed in my former employer in their lack of understanding and compassion, but I'm very happy with my new move. As for disclosure with my new employer, I have discussed that I often have back pain, but I plan on keeping my medication regimen a private matter. Upward and onward.

  • by the way, the change in attitude with my administrators was unbelievable when i went out for my first back surgery. i've had 4 and two of them were during the school year. the last one my disc broke so i had to have it done. the sarcasm, the hostility the attitude towards me all changed the minute i had surgery. literally from the penthouse to the outhouse. my working with HR and telling the district that i would get legal action if things did not change. the bad attitude is there but they do not hassle me anymore. and since i will retire in june, the administrator now loves me again. fact of life, work does not have to go out of their way to be nice after surgery and time off they become hostile and belligerent towards you . this happens with most jobs
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • My one boss at the time had acted funny when I was first injured, now I have some insulation from him and my immediate boss is good about things, I guess since his wife has a serious condition. I work in a big place and there are many people that have been out for months at a time. Some never came back from their illness or injury. I have had surgery 3X since I've been with the company and the longest I was out was 2 weeks. With the car accident I had a string of 3 weeks and odd days since adding up to maybe 3 months.

    Diagnosis: Thoracic facet syndrome & cervical and thoracic radiculopathy from car accident trauma.
  • justinjjustin Posts: 39
    edited 02/08/2014 - 11:08 AM
    legal shmeagal. the world wants us to work to make a living but wont support the people in chronic pain then people have to take the medications they need period end of story do what we need to do ... I wont just lay in the field and die. nope ill take the meds that I need to work. if something happens its 10 grand for a good lawyer. cross your fingers
  • like driving, i never worry about it. it never enters my mind and i have been taking meds for 13 years and working with nothing going on. if people want to spend the whole day worrying about things then more power to them. i have better things to do than worry.
    jon, what me worrry?
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • Never discuss these type of things with co-workers no matter how "comfy & close" you all are, it will come back on you.
    Your private medical concerns and problems are just that private work is not a good place to share.
    Sorry if I sound harsh but I have experience with co-workers before and when it comes to pain medications people can get weird.
    C3-4-5 fusion 2005
    C-5-T-1 disk bulged
    L-4-5 bulge to the right, with Microdiscectomy, failed
    L5- Bi-Lateral bulge
    Pain in right foot -loss of feeling
    Left butt, hip and front thigh pain with bad shooting pain into inside ankle sometimes
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