According to a recent study, the early and frequent use of opioid painkillers to treat workplace injury has lead to higher costs for workplace insurers and longer recovery time among injured workers. Far too often, early or extended use of narcotic painkillers can lead to addiction problems, which further complicate a worker’s ability to recover from injury and return to work.
A recent study conducted by the California Workers Compensation Institute found that workers who received high doses of opioid painkillers to treat back injuries were away from work three times longer than workers with similar injuries who took lower doses. Common opioid drugs used to treat back and other pain are Oxycontin, Percocet and Duragesic.
According to insurance industry data, narcotics prescriptions as a portion of all drugs prescribed to treat workplace injuries have increased by over 60 percent between 2001 and 2008. The use of narcotic drugs to treat pain caused by workplace injuries is also a part of wider problem where opioid drugs are excessively used to treat pain.
The widespread use of narcotics to treat back and other pain caused by work injuries has attracted attention because the use of the drugs has not correlated with positive, long-term treatment. In addition, high doses of opioids carry varying risks. The use of Oxycontin and related drugs can cause drowsiness and lethargy, and high doses of opioids can lead to addiction and even death caused by an overdose.
The use of opioids has also increased the cost of treating workplace injuries. According to insurer, Accident Fund Holdings, the typical cost of a workplace injury, which includes the employee’s medical expenses and lost wage payments, is about $13,000. However, when an injured worker is prescribed a short-term painkiller, such as Percocet, the cost triples to $39,000, and when an injured worker is prescribed a stronger painkiller like Oxycontin the cost triples again to $117,000.
Although pain prescriptions may be over-prescribed in some situations, the treatment of pain is important when a workplace accident occurs. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help an injured worker address his or her concerns when injury strikes.
Source: charlotteobserver.com, “In Workplace Injuries, Painkillers Add Costs, Delays in Returning to Work,” Barry Meier, June 4, 2012