The American Society of Addiction Medicine said that between 1999 and 2012, poisonings due to opiates increased 91 percent. Poisonings by heroin during the same time period went up 12 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s director, “Opioid abuse, including prescription painkillers, is a growing epidemic that is gripping our country.”

The most recent data from the CDC reports that in 2013, 2 million people in the United States, ages 12 and over, were dependent on or abused opioid pain relievers. In 2014, overdoses on heroin, prescription painkillers and other opioids cost 28,600 people their lives.

The National Safety Council, in partnership with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, conducted a survey late last year of 200 companies based in Indiana. The results were sobering — 80 percent of the companies reported that they have had employees who have abused OxyContin, Vicodin and other prescription opioids. This drug problem, though, isn’t just limited to Indiana — it’s across the country, including in Illinois. In addition to the well-being and health being endangered, employers are paying a high price for it in terms of lost productivity and absenteeism. Employers lost $10 billion a year on average.

Employers are right to be concerned about employees who abuse opioids. These drugs can impair the ability of an employee to make logical decisions or use heavy machinery. Workers’ compensation claims have risen in 2014 by 2 percent since 2013, some of which is due to an 11.5 percent in 2014 for opioid painkillers.

One thing employers can do is make sure employees know the risks of using opioid drugs. Those who are abusing the drugs should make sure there are treatment options available for those who have a problem with opioid abuse.

Opioid abuse can play a role in workplace accidents and safety. According to the national Safety Council’s chief executive officer and president, “At the end of the day, we believe zero workplace incidents is the only ethically responsible target. We have a duty to protect employees from harming themselves and harming others.”

If you have been injured in a workplace accident, you have a right to seek workers’ compensation. Should your claim be denied, an attorney can help you file an appeal.

Source: Workforce, “Pain Points,” Sarah Sipek, Feb. 02, 2016