Potential Narcotics Abuse in Workers Compensation Treatment
Injured workers suffering from pain are often prescribed opioids, highly addictive medications that can lead to long-term dependencies. Pain management during treatment is essential to healing. How to balance the risk of addiction and the proper treatment for chronic pain requires patient and medical vigilance.
New York and Louisiana have the highest rates of prescribing narcotics for non-surgical workers compensation claims. One in six injured workers in Louisiana and one in seven in New York were identified as “longer-term users of narcotics” on workers compensation claims. Neither state has adequate safeguards in place to prevent abuse and addiction. In sharp contrast, fewer than one in 20 workers prescribed narcotics were identified as longer-term users in New Jersey.
These brand name narcotics include:
- MS Contin
- Nucynta ER
- Opana ER
A recent study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute traced the progress of Massachusetts in preventing addiction within the workers compensation system. The number of opioid-related poisoning deaths in Massachusetts shot from 94 in 1990 to 637 in 2007. Such poisoning was the result of having 42 percent of workers in the state receiving schedule II narcotics, such as codeine and morphine. Massachusetts led 17 states in use of opioids in dosage and length of treatment for injured workers.
Physicians in Massachusetts are now required to take continuing education courses in pain management. Guidelines were adopted that follow the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s (ACOEM) nationally-recognized pain management standard. This standard focuses on medical, behavioral therapy, physical conditioning and education to help workers become self-sufficient quickly after injury. It includes using NSAIDS, standard over-the-counter painkillers, to treat most types of pain, and limit needed opioids to about a week’s worth of use.
A workplace injury should not lead to a lifetime addiction. Counsel from experienced workers compensation attorneys can help you heal while receiving the benefits you are entitled to throughout your recovery period.