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What Can Hoosier Employers Do About Prescription Drug Abuse?

Some 80 percent of Indiana employers say they’ve experienced prescription drug abuse issues at their companies, yet fewer than a third offer training around workplace drug use.

The National Safety Council says it had never done a state-level look at prescription drug use in the workplace before surveying more than 200 Indiana human resources and safety professionals.

National Safety Council President Deborah Hersman says about one in five employers reported an injury or near miss due to prescription drug issues; nearly a quarter reported seeing employees borrow or sell prescription drugs.

She says what’s also troubling is that while 76 percent of employers feel prescription drug abuse is a fireable offense, only about half have a written policy on prescription drug use.

“What that really means is there’s only two options left: you either ignore the employee that is on these prescription medications in the workplace or you fire them,” Hersman says.

Hersman says the National Safety Council has several recommended steps employers should take.

Still, Cummins Chief Medical Director Dexter Shurney says while it may seem less costly for companies like his to simply fire prescription drug abusers, rather than help them recover, that’s not true in the long run.

“We invest a lot into our employees and so we really want to do what’s right by them. And so we’re not really looking to punish people,” Shurney says.

The National Safety Council's recommendations include putting in place strong prescription drug use policies, drug testing for prescription opioids, creating training for employees and supervisors, recognizing that prescription drug abuse is a disease and helping employees get treatment.

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