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Study looks into link between opioid crisis and fewer men in labor force

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The opioid crisis is taking a toll on families across the country. Now, a new study reveals it may also be impacting the U.S. workforce.

The researcher found as the number of opioid prescriptions went up, the number of men working went down. The report was written by Alan B. Kreuger, a professor of economics at Princeton University.

"Labor force participation is lower and fell more in the 2000s in areas of the U.S. that have a higher volume of opioid medication prescribed per capita than in other areas," Krueger states in the report.

"We know opioids do affect people’s ability to work, ability to concentrate, ability to keep relationships," said Kimble Richardson, a licensed mental health counselor with Community Health Network. "The opioid crisis really it’s like throwing a rock into a pond, the concentric circles it really affects all aspects of a person’s life."

To get a better idea of the situation in Indiana, CBS4 reached out to Quest Diagnostics which does drug screenings for companies around the country.

Their data shows an issue with the number of people failing drugs tests in the Hoosier State.

“As we look at results of Indiana, it’s been showing year over year increases," said Barry Sample, PhD, senior director of science and technology for Quest's employer solutions.

Sample specifically pointed to the results for heroin screenings. In parts of central Indiana, the number of people testing positive for heroin is double the national average.

"I believe this would be surprising and notable," Sample said about the numbers.

"Addressing the opioid crisis could help support efforts to raise labor force participation and prevent it from falling further," Krueger wrote in the report.

Lawmakers are discussing this issue in Washington D.C. During a hearing last month, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) discussed the challenges employers are facing in her district.

“In my district in northern Indiana, the home of the RV industry, today right now in just one county we have 30,000 jobs available,” Congresswoman Walorski said. “There are plenty of reasons for this, but I hear it every day from everybody and their brother: they can’t hire workers that can pass a drug test."

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