Heroin Is Creeping Into Offices In Cities Ravaged By Prescription Pill Abuse


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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Heroin addiction is becoming increasingly common in workplaces throughout the U.S., particularly in cities hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.

Heroin overdoses killed 281 people in Wisconsin in 2015, and much of the spike in fatalities is attributed to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine. Fentanyl is having a particularly devastating effect in Milwaukee. There were 71 fentanyl deaths in 2016, up from 30 in 2015. The opioid crisis transcends socioeconomic lines, affecting people of every background, making the addiction difficult to spot, reports Biz Times.

A survey recently released by the National Safety Council reveals more than 70 percent of workplaces are feeling the negative effects of opioid abuse. Officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration say four out of five heroin addicts started with painkillers.

“These are the working class,” Sara Schreiber, forensic technical director at the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, told Biz Times. “This is the group that is still well in the workforce. They’re not retired and they’re not fresh out of college looking for a job. They come from all walks of life, all demographics, all counties, all suburbs.”

Nearly 40 percent of employers surveyed by the National Safety Council said employees are missing work due to painkiller abuse, with roughly the same percent reporting employees abusing the drugs on the job. Despite the problems opioid abuse is causing in the workplace, many employee drug tests do not look for the substance. Fifty-seven percent of businesses test for drugs, but 41 percent of those businesses do not test for opioids.

“Today it’s everybody,” Dr. Michael Miller, medical director of the Herrington Recovery Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisc., told Biz Times. “It’s every ethnic group. It’s men and women, it’s old and young and everybody in between.”

A record 33,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid deaths contributed to the first drop in U.S. life expectancy since 1993 and eclipsed deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 2015. Combined, heroin, fentanyl and other opiate-based painkillers account for roughly 63 percent of drug fatalities, which claimed 52,404 lives in the U.S. in 2015.

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