Report illustrates painkiller abuse among workers

new report from the Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). Researchers found that almost one in 12 injured workers who begin using opioids were still using the prescription drugs three to six months later. The report, authored by Dongchun Wang, Dean Hashimoto and Kathryn Mueller, states:

“Opioids have been widely prescribed for and filled by injured workers — about 55 –85 percent of injured workers received narcotics, despite medical recommendations to avoid routine prescription and to limit the use of opioids to more severe pain or pain which is unresponsive to other analgesics. The growing public concerns regarding overuse and abuse, which often result in emergency room visits and even overdose deaths, are shared by the workers’ compensation health care community. These concerns are increasingly important public policy issues, given the limited evidence of the effectiveness of opioids in treating chronic noncancer pain.”
Insurance payments Insurers pay out approximately $1.4 billion annually for narcotic painkillers, while the typical cost of a workers’ compensation claim is $13,000, including medical expenses and lost wage payments. However, the average cost increases to $117,000 when the prescription is for a long-term narcotic like OxyContin. That’s nine times (or over $100,000) more than the average cost of a workers’ compensation claim where opioids are not involved. The study was based on nearly 300,000 workers’ compensation claims and 1.1 million prescriptions associated with those claims from 21 states. The claims represent injuries arising from October 1, 2006, to September 30, 2009, with prescriptions filled up to March 31, 2011. The underlying data reflect an average of 24 months’ experience. Drug screening in the workplace As an employer, these are reports and issues that you need to be aware of. The United States Department of Labor estimated in 2005 that of the 17.2 million drug abusers in the US, 12.9 million were employed either full or part time. In addition, 10 to 20% of workers who died on the job tested positive for alcohol or other drugs. Staying on top of such news and implementing drug testing among employees will go a long way to ensuring you maintain a safe and productive work environment. For more information on how to get started with a drug screening policy, contact us today!  ]]>

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