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Prescription drug abuse impacts most Indiana workplaces

Attorney General Greg Zoeller speaks Monday about the dangers of prescription drug abuse in the workplace. He was joined, right, by Deborah Hersman, president of the National Safety Council, and Dr. Dexter Shurney, Cummins Inc. chief medical director, during a presentation in Zoeller's office at the Indiana Statehouse.

INDIANAPOLIS | Four out of five Indiana employers report experiencing workplace issues associated with employee prescription drug abuse, ranging from decreased job performance to pill selling to worker overdoses.

But barely half have policies in place relating to misuse of prescription drugs, even fewer employers include opioid painkillers in employee drug screens and just 29 percent offer any management training on the illegal use of legally prescribed drugs.

Those findings, from a first-in-the-nation state employer survey conducted by the Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council, prompted Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller on Monday to encourage employers to take prescription drug abuse more seriously.

"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," said Zoeller, a Republican.

Deborah Hersman, National Safety Council president, said the negative effects of workplace prescription drug abuse are heightened in a state like Indiana where many jobs are manufacturing- or transportation-related and require use of powerful machinery.

She said employers who are able to recognize the signs of abuse and provide treatment are best suited to improving the lives of their employees and protecting their business interests.

"We know that if employers initiate the treatment, we see better outcomes for the individuals who are addicted than we do when it's a family intervention or if it's a criminal intervention," Hersman said. "Employers have great success when it comes to sustainable results."

The attorney general's prescription drug abuse prevention task force has employer resources available online at bitterpill.in.gov.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.