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Opioid drug addiction following workplace injuries

A recent report from the National Safety Council indicates that injured workers in Colorado and around the country are more than twice as likely to become disabled if they take opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin or Percocet for more than a week. The abuse of prescription drugs such as narcotic pain medication is a growing problem in the United States, and the NSC report indicates that these highly addictive drugs make up more than 25 percent of workers' compensation drug costs.

The NSC also found a number of other problems associated with the use of opioid painkillers by injured workers. The narcotic drugs can lead workers recovering from an on-the-job injury into dependency and addiction, and some workers die of drug overdoses after becoming hooked on the painkillers.

Employers and insurance companies also have good reason to question the use of opioid painkillers for the victims of workplace accidents. The NSC found that the cost of workers' compensation claims can increase significantly when the drugs are prescribed, and courts have often held insurance companies or employers responsible for the costs associated with prescription painkiller abuse among injured workers. These costs include death benefits paid to the families of workers who died of an overdose as well as detoxification and rehabilitation programs for workers who become addicted.

Workers' compensation attorneys may be aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse among injured workers, and they could recommend that their clients enroll in some sort of support program when their doctors prescribe the medication. Attorneys may also assist the victims of workplace accidents with the workers' compensation application process to ensure that they apply for all of the benefits that are available to them.

Source: EHS Today, "Prescription Pain Meds: Sweet Relief or a Fatal Cure?", Sandy Smith, July 15, 2015

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