Opioid Epidemic Driving Up Workers’ Comp Costs

Opioid Epidemic Driving Up Workers’ Comp Costs

Patients receiving high doses of opioids took three times longer to return to work than injured workers who received lower doses, according to a California Workers’ Compensation Institute study.  Pills

In Michigan, claimants who received short-acting opioids such as Oxycodone were 76% likelier to have workers’ comp costs exceeding $100,000.   Injured workers who were prescribed a long-acting painkiller such as Fentanyl were four times likelier to file catastrophic claims exceeding $100,000, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

According to Dr. Donald Teator, medical adviser to the National Safety Council, “Opioids work on your brain more than the pain. People get the meds and it makes them feel relaxed and takes away a lot of their drive to get back to work. They just kind of mellow out taking these pills and don’t get up and do the exercises they’re supposed to or follow up with their doctors the way they’re supposed to.”   In addition to increased workers’ compensation costs, valuable workers are plagued by addiction problems.

According to a Liberty Mutual Insurance study of workers compensation claimants with disabling low back pain, workers who are prescribed opioids during the first two weeks of their injury were six times likelier to use narcotics later on.

Employers should work with physicians, their broker and claims adjusters to ensure the opioids prescribes are at appropriate levels for disabled workers, while also petitioning state and local government to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

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