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Eight out of 10 Hoosier employers affected by prescription drug abuse

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One of the riskiest things you could do as a Hoosier adult used to be to get behind the wheel – something most of us do every single day. Today, adults in Indiana are more likely to die from a prescription drug overdose than in a car crash.

A recent survey has revealed that eight out of 10 Hoosier employers have been affected in some way by use and misuse of prescription drugs.

“It is important for employers to understand that the most fatally abused drug today may be sitting in their employees’ medicine cabinets,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council said in a statement. “Ensuring employees are as safe and healthy as possible should be every employer’s highest priority. It is our hope that employers take the lead on this emerging safety threat so our workplaces can be safer than ever before.”

The survey findings, released Monday by the National Safety Council and the Indiana Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, is the first of its kind, according to the National Safety Council.

The survey shows 64 percent or nearly two-thirds, “of employers believe prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet are bigger problems than illegal drugs.”

“We’ve seen how the public health crisis of prescription drug abuse is taking a toll on families and communities in Indiana, and this survey shows that it has infiltrated our workplaces, just as it has with so many other facets of our society,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, creator and co-chair of the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, said in a statement.

The survey also highlighted that 87 percent of employers conduct drug testing, only 52 percent test for synthetic opioids.

“Beyond the loss of productivity, prescription abuse can cause impairment, injury and may lead employees to bad choices such as theft or embezzlement from the employer,” Zoeller said in a statement. “I challenge all Hoosier businesses to recognize the risks and start this conversation in their workplaces to elevate the issue, deter abuse and create avenues for people to seek help before it’s too late.”

The council is recommending employers to expand drug testing and encouraging Hoosier business owners to educate employees and supervisors on how to detect misuse of prescription drugs.

“We make every effort to avoid workplace injuries, particularly in our manufacturing environments. We do this by providing education and support to help employees take better care of themselves at work and at home,” Dexter Shurney, chief medical director at Cummins, Inc. said in a statement. “We find that identifying the issues employees are facing is the first step toward developing appropriate resources for them. We applaud these efforts to raise awareness of these important issues.”

Other key findings from the survey include:
  • 76 percent of employers say misusing prescription drugs is a justifiable reason for termination
  • Only 53 percent of employers have a written policy on using prescription drugs at work, despite 80 percent reporting they have had experienced an issue
  • 87 percent of employers conduct drug testing, but only 52 percent test for synthetic opioids
  • More than 60 percent of employers are not confident that their staff can recognize the signs and symptoms of prescription drug misuse or abuse
  • Less than 30 percent of employers offer training around workplace usage of prescription drugs
The survey involved more than 200 employers between May and August. Indiana was the first state to undergo the polling and will be used as a model for other states interested in addressing prescription drug abuse in the workplace.

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