Growing Number of Injured Workers Seek Relief from OpioidsDecember 5, 2018
Work-related injuries can often leave individuals dealing with chronic pain and discomfort. When over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen fail to provide enough pain relief, many workers resort to stronger options.
According to a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, nearly one-third of Maryland workers who filed Workers’ Compensation claims resorted to opioid painkillers three months after their injury. Researchers conducted this study in order to gain a better understanding of some of the common characteristics these workers shared.
Ultimately, this information can be used to create more effective drug intervention programs.
Higher Risk for Dependence
The researchers found that many of the nearly 9,600 workers who filed Workers’ Compensation claims between 2008 and 2016 were at high risk for dependence. For example, workers who were 60 years of age or older and suffered from injuries like strains, sprains, and crush injuries, were more likely to continue to refill their prescription for an opioid medication.
Researchers suggest that these workers should not have been prescribed an opioid painkiller due to the high risk for drug dependence. According to one researcher, there was no correlation between opioid use and injury severity, so healthcare professionals should reconsider writing a prescription for an opioid for a non-severe injury. Interventions should target high-risk patients.
The Dangers of Prescription Opioids
While Maryland health officials report a decline in the number of fatal overdoses from prescription opioids, they are still considered a gateway drug. When people can no longer get a prescription for a painkiller like Oxycontin or Vicodin, they often turn to illegal opioids like heroin and other dangerous, and highly addictive drugs, that they can buy on the street.
For many people, including injured workers who are trying to manage their pain, this is a slippery slope to addiction and life-threatening overdoses. In the first half of 2018, there were over 1,300 overdose fatalities in Maryland, 200 of which involved prescription opioids.
Opioid Addiction Impact
Unfortunately, when a worker becomes addicted to an opioid painkiller, it can have a devastating effect on his or her employment, family, marriage, and overall health. If the addiction becomes severe, the worker could face criminal charges if he or she tries to obtain their medication illegally. This can cause the worker to lose his or her job, and cause permanent damage to close personal relationships.
In extreme cases, it can result in a fatal overdose.
According to CDC guidelines, doctors should not prescribe opioid painkillers for more than seven days. In addition, there are other pain management options that a doctor can recommend before resorting to opioids, including over-the-counter pain medications, acupuncture, meditation, and other holistic options.
If these are not effective, and an opioid medication is necessary to effectively manage the pain, the worker should be closely monitored by his or her physician. The goal should be to wean the injured worker off the opioid painkiller as soon as possible.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Workers with Opioid Dependencies
If you have been injured at work, and you were prescribed an opioid painkiller, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, particularly if you have become addicted to the medication. Our experienced legal team will review your case and secure the maximum financial benefits you deserve. To set up a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.