In order to combat the pain of suffering occupational injuries, injured workers often need opioid painkillers.  While these medicines can ease short-term aching, they can have long-term devastating consequences down the road.  This problem can increase if the treating physician relies too much on prescriptions that mask the symptoms without solving the underlying problem.

Injured Workers suffer

Workers suffer dependence and addiction from excessive prescription medications.   Recent studies have suggested that such use is proving more to be an expensive mistake than a remedy. The California Workers’ Compensation Institute found that workers who were using high amounts of opioids stayed out of work and on social security disability and workers’ compensation longer.  Heavy usage of painkillers, compared to lighter doses, combined with ignoring physical therapy recommendations resulted in a delay almost three times as long as workers not relying as greatly on medication.

Doctors who over prescribe painkillers not only inhibit full recovery but also create newer dilemmas for workers including increased lethargy and drowsiness in users.  In extreme cases patients have died from overdoses.  In Florida two doctors have been criminally charged after nine of their patients died from excessive prescriptions.

Costs soar

Over a period of study for seven years between 2001 and 2008, narcotics prescriptions as a share of all drugs used to treat workplace injuries jumped 63 percent, according to insurance industry data.  Increased Physician reliance on narcotics have led to costs for such medications soaring, leading to an increase drain on disability and workers’ compensation funds with little regard to other methods of pain relief and treatment, such as physical therapy and exercise.

When the total cost of medical care and disability payments are calculated, the cost of a workplace injury is almost nine times higher when opioids such as OxyContin are used than when an opioid is not used, according to a 2010 analysis by Accident Fund Holdings, a workers’ compensation insurer operating in nearly 20 states.

According to a report in the Denver Post, deaths linked to prescription opioids have doubled in the past 10 years in Colorado.  While Denver’s Office of Drug Strategy found that oxycodone prescriptions rose 58 percent over the past five years, and recreational use or abuse of painkillers in Colorado is 19 percent higher than the national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

States such as Colorado and New York are seeking new pain treatment guidelines in hopes to reverse skyrocketing costs resulting poor treatment to the injured worker. Colorado’s Division of Workers’ Compensation has set strict guidelines for patients receiving opioids for extended periods, which make obvious that long-term opioid use meant to be a measure of last resort after other options have failed.

Are you suffering from a workplace injury? We understand the stress and agony an injured worker goes through.  In addition to getting you the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve, we can help to advise on how to work with your doctor to get the right care you need to recover from your injury.  Call us today or click HERE for a free consultation.