Indianapolis, IN – Eighty percent of Indiana employers have been impacted by prescription drug misuse and abuse, including opioid painkillers, in their workplaces, according to a survey (PDF) released by the National Safety Council and the Indiana Attorney General’s Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. The survey, the first of its kind in the nation, found nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of employers believe prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet are bigger problems than illegal drugs.
The findings come in the midst of the state’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. Drug poisonings, largely from opioid painkillers, have increased fivefold in Indiana since 1999 and now eclipse car crashes as the leading cause of injury death among adults.1
“It is important for employers to understand that the most fatally abused drug today may be sitting in their employees’ medicine cabinets,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “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.”
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
“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,” said Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller, creator and co-chair of the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. “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. 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.”
To help protect workers, the Council recommends employers expand drug testing to include detection of opioid painkillers, train employees and supervisors how to spot signs of misuse and leverage Employee Assistance Programs to help employees return to work following treatment for addiction. Employers are also encouraged to download the free Prescription Drug Employer Kit for help developing policies and managing opioid use at work. Companies of all sizes, including Indiana-based Cummins, Inc., have established prescription drug policies.
“At Cummins, we demand that everything we do leads to a cleaner, healthier, safer environment,” said Dexter Shurney, Chief Medical Director at Cummins, Inc. “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. 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.”
The National Safety Council poll was conducted in first in Indiana, and it will be used as a model for other states interested in addressing prescription drug abuse in the workplace. The poll surveyed more than 200 employers from May through August 2015.
For resources and information about prescription drug abuse in Indiana, visit bitterpill.in.gov.
1According to Indiana State Department of Health
Source: National Safety Council