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Opioid crisis leads to changes in workers’ compensation laws

| Aug 17, 2017 | Workers' Compensation

There is no question that the use and abuse of narcotics is dangerously high across the country. Reports of opioid overdoses and increased levels of addiction to painkillers make headlines almost nightly as the medical community, politicians and families try to figure out how to curb the use of these dangerously addictive drugs.

For many who suffer with addiction, their troubles began with a simple prescription. In fact, many struggling with opioid dependency began their dark journey with a workplace injury.

The dangers of prescription painkillers

Doctors seem to be quick to write prescriptions. In fact, in some cases, a doctor may prescribe far more pills for much longer time than you really need. These highly addictive painkillers don’t need long to seep into every area of your life, and many workers find themselves fighting a dependency that threatens their jobs, families and lives.

If you have ever taken prescription painkillers, you may know the feeling of euphoria and relief they bring. However, that feeling soon wears off, and you may need more pills to achieve the same effect. Soon, as with many addictions, the body needs the pills to avoid the pain of withdrawing from the medicine. This is the vicious circle of addiction.

Possible reasons for the changes

Recent data reports good news in several states. The Workers Compensation Research Institute just revealed that the number of opioid prescriptions written for injured workers seems to be declining rapidly. In fact, several states show that, in the past year, doctors have written up to 40 percent fewer prescriptions for narcotics for those workers who took at least a week off work but did not need surgery for a job-related injury. Analysts believe the drop may be due to any of the following factors:

  • Changes in public policies and strategies
  • Doctors seeking alternatives to assist patients with pain management
  • Implementation of state and local workers’ compensation reforms
  • Regulations placed on state and local pain clinics
  • Establishment of standards for dispensing opioids in some states
  • Other legislative reforms

While 26 states showed a marked decline in opioid prescriptions issued to injured workers, some states continue to dispense narcotic painkillers at alarming levels. In fact, if you are injured on the job here in Pennsylvania, doctors are still likely to write a prescription for narcotics instead of a less addictive alternative. This state is one of the top the report noted for having excessively high levels of prescriptions written for such painkillers.

The line between providing you with the medication and pain relief you need and setting you up for a lifetime of addiction is a fine one to tread. Injured workers like you depend on the benefits of workers’ compensation to help them through difficult times following a workplace injury. It remains to be seen how future changes in workers’ compensation laws will affect the way you receive medical care following an injury.

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