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Survey: 80% of Indiana workplaces impacted by prescription drug use

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Dec. 7, 2015) – The prescription drug epidemic in Indiana is now leading some State agencies to look at expanding drug testing in the office. According to a new survey, 80 percent of Indiana workplaces are impacted by prescription drug abuse.

“When people think about the war on drugs they’re thinking of things that occur in back alleys, but that’s not what’s happening,” said Debra Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

What is happening is drugs including Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet and other prescription opioids are regularly making it into the workplace. That’s according to the survey put out by the National Safety Council and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. Indiana is the first state in the Country to participate in the survey, where results emphasize the need for education before the abuse becomes deadly.

Hersman presented the study findings with Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

“Over the years, we know the real toll that prescription drug abuse is taking on our communities, our families, but today we’re really focused on the toll it’s taking in the workforce,” said Zoeller. “We can address the problems, we also need to be part of the solutions.”

According to the survey, the use of opioid painkillers has increased fivefold in Indiana since 1999.

Some employers, such as Columbus-based Cummins have made awareness and treatment a focus within the business to counter the issue.

“We see this as necessary to really make, to take the next steps in resolving this issue,” said Dr. Dexter Shurney, Cummins’ Chief Medical Director.

While a majority of employers surveyed said they conduct drug screenings, the Council says many of these employers are not testing for the right drugs.

“The most widely used and fatally used drug is not being picked up in most companies’ drug screening,” said Hersman.

Only about half of the workplaces in the study have a policy for how to deal with the problem, but even fewer offer training about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

“I think if they focused on the treatment and rehabilitation and protecting the safety in the workplace, that’s where they ought to spend their attention,” said Zoeller.

The council has developed a free toolkit for employers on how to deal with these employees and bring them safely back to work. The council also encourages all employers to put together a plan, as prescription drug abuse is a significant issue affecting employers and employees across the country.