Drug expert: Heroin putting employers in ‘very difficult position’

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

She says 80 percent on those who OD on heroin started with painkillers

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Even someone with her vast experience — 30 years as a substance abuse professional — couldn’t have predicted the wave created by they heroin epidemic.

Adriane Scherrer has worked in the field of employee assistance and drug free communities and has studied heroin extensively, she said. She said addiction to painkillers spread across the country at the same time, while other drugs typically move slowly from state to state.

She said 80 percent of the people who overdose from heroin were first addicted to painkillers.

Scherrer was one of the keynote speakers at last week’s Workplace Drug-Free program presented by the Safety Council of Southwestern Ohio at Atrium Medical Center.

The impact heroin addiction may be having in the workplace concerns Scherrer, she said.

“Employers don’t have enough information about how we got to this place,” she said after the meeting. “They don’t know what they’re looking at when they see it and because of a person who is addicted to first painkillers and then switches over to heroin because it’s so much cheaper than painkillers on the street, they don’t know what they’re looking at. And if they do notice job performance issues they don’t know what to do about it.

“That is a very difficult position to be in,” she said.

In Butler County last year, there were 189 drug overdoses, including 149 heroin-related, according to the Butler County Coroner’s Office. During the first six months of 2016, 94 overdoses were recorded, and 72 were blamed on heroin.

The use of narcan, a medication used to block the effects of opioids, has been highly debated by people who say it saves lives while others argue addicts use narcan as a safety net. Scherrer said research shows that 67 percent of those who are revived by narcan will use heroin within the next 24 hours.

Lawyer Karl Ulrich addressed the legal aspects of substance testing in the workplace, especially related to the use of medical marijuana. The use of marijuana for medical purposes became effective in Ohio on Sept. 6, joining 42 other states.

Even though it’s legal, Ulrich said a registered patient is not authorized to operate a vehicle while under the influence. Then, he said, if a driver admits to a police officer that they’re a registered patient that doesn’t give the officer the authority for a field sobriety test.

Also, Ulrich said, Ohio law says employers don’t have to permit the use of medical marijuana, and job candidates who admit to being on medical marijuana may be refused employment. Discharge for the use of medical marijuana is “just cause” for unemployment compensation purposes if use was in violation of company program.