Workers’ Compensation: Are Opioids Necessary?

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The opioid crisis is no secret:  thousands of lives across the country have been impacted by opioid addiction. Often, the signs of addiction appear early on in the workplace.  Having policies in place to identify and address issues related to addiction can be a benefit to employees and companies alike. Furthermore, employees must learn to advocate for themselves when managing pain related to workplace injuries.


It is a Crisis

Workplace injury claims often necessitate pain management, and that means opioids in many cases.  While opioids are prescribed to manage pain in roughly 70 percent of cases nationwide, that number is 80 percent in South Carolina. As a consequence, drug dependence winds up costing employees, their families, and their employers in more ways than one.  The costs of addiction include broken families, extended medical issues, workplace mistakes, and sometimes even death.


Impact on the Workplace

The fact is, two-thirds of human resources personnel who were questioned reported that opioid use has, or will have, an impact on business.  The majority of them added that, as a company, they are not currently equipped to deal with the issues surrounding opioid use and its effect on workplace safety, morale, or productivity. Employers echo these sentiments, with three-fourths of respondents reporting they have experienced direct repercussions of opioid use, and nearly one in five saying they do not feel well prepared to deal with problems related to opioid use.  Some of the issues include:

  • It is the belief of nearly 90 percent of employers that job performance is impaired by opioid use, even when used as directed;
  • Roughly 80 percent of employers lack the training to spot opioid misuse on the job;
  • High-risk use claims involving opioids were related to extended-release medications at three times the rate of claims involving low-dose medications;
  • The concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines resulted in accidents at seven times the rate of accidents related to the singular use of opioids in 2016;
  • In a 2013 study, claims involving opioids resulted in pointedly higher indemnity and medical expenses and claims that were open significantly longer.


Addressing Your Pain

Opioids are frequently prescribed to address the pain of workplace injuries, particularly in the case of back or neck pain.  However, safe alternatives do exist, and as a consumer of medical services, every worker should advocate for him or herself on this topic.  Some alternatives include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (Advil or Motrin);
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol or Panadol)
  • Non-opioid prescriptions (tricyclic antidepressants or gabapentinoids) used in conjunction with Tylenol or Advil;
  • Localized numbing;
  • Non-drug treatments (massage, physical therapy, ice, acupuncture).


Your Workers Compensation Claim

If you are having trouble with a WC claim, whether it be related to medications or other issues, the experienced legal team at the Dan Pruitt Injury Law Firm can help.  Contact our Greenville office today to schedule a no-cost consultation.

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