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April 20, 2016

Dealing with Opioid Abuse in the Workplace

All applicants are screened for drugs
You've probably heard that prescription painkillers have become a leading cause of drug overdose deaths, which now exceed car crashes as the leading cause of unintentional death. But you might be surprised to learn how pervasive opioid prescription use in the workplace - perhaps even yours.

A recent study of 200 Indiana employers found that prescription drug abuse currently affects 80 percent of companies. About two in three of the employers who were surveyed saw prescription drug abuse as a bigger problem in their workplaces than illegal drugs, with one in five reporting that there had been an injury or a near-miss related to prescription drugs.

Opioid prescription medications have become a very real health and safety issue in the workplace. They can cause impairment, increase the risk of workplace incidents, errors and injury - even when taken as prescribed. Prescription painkillers also profoundly increase workers’ compensation costs, increase the length of worker disability and increase work time lost.

The drugs have become commonplace because they are highly effective painkillers and doctors are comfortable prescribing them. In fact, the Workers Compensation Research Institute reports that 65 to 85 percent of injured workers who received pain medications from 2010 to 2012 were given prescriptions for opioid drugs.

So what can an employer do about opioid abuse? The safety experts at Safety Management Group in Indianapolis have authored an article that defines the problem, addresses preventive measures, identifies signs of abuse and offers advice on steps to take if you think an employee is being impacted by prescription painkillers. You might be surprised that simply firing the employee is probably not your best course of action. It's truly an issue you can't ignore.

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