Workers’ compensation and addiction to opioids

| Apr 21, 2017 | Workplace Injuries

Countless New Jersey workers suffer serious on-the-job injuries every year. Many of these workers require pain medication to manage the chronic suffering that’s associated with their injuries. The problem is, pain medication — especially opioid-based pain medication — can be extremely addictive.

When workers receive a prescription for Vicodin and OxyContin, for example, they suffer the risk of becoming addicted. Some injured workers, who are at home with nothing to do while they’re trying to recover from their injuries, become depressed and they may use opioid pain medication to deal with that depression.

According to a recent survey, 2.8 million workers in the private sector, and 752,000 workers in the public sector suffered nonfatal injuries in 2015 while performing their job duties. Many of these workers contributed to the $1.5 billion-plus spent on opioid-based medications by workers’ compensation insurance companies in 2015. In fact, 13 percent of the opioid use in the United States comes from prescriptions issued to injured workers. Amazingly, between 55 to 85 percent of injured workers who needed to spend at least seven days away from work were given opioid prescriptions. In New Jersey, one out of 30 injured workers receive a long-term opioid prescription.

Injured New Jersey workers — who get hurt while performing their job duties — can usually receive workers’ compensation benefits to help pay for their medical care and lost income resulting from their injuries. However, as is seen in the preceding paragraphs, workers’ compensation benefits sometimes do more harm than good if they end up paying for highly addictive opioids. If you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, be sure to discuss how to safely use opioids if you receive a prescription to take these powerful medications.

Source: Messenger-Inquirer, “Workers comp programs fight addiction among injured workers,” Bob Salsberg, accessed April 21, 2017

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