Workers compensation provides five basic benefits to an employee. These benefits include medical care, temporary disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and death benefits.
The medical care is paid by the employer to help you recover from your injuries, and the other benefits are in place to help with lost wages because the injury is keeping you from being able to perform your duties while you are recovering.
Opioids and Workers Comp
When opioids are used, they can significantly impair your ability to function, and they have proven to be a barrier to recovery. The effects can carry over when the employee returns to work following their accident. If you have been dependent on these painkillers for three months, then you have most likely developed a tolerance for the drug, and this can have a detrimental impact once you return to work.
The National Council on Compensation Insurance has estimated that opioids and other prescription drugs account for approximately 25% of most workers compensation medical costs. It was also found that persistent opioid use has been linked to more costly claims and even attributed to a loss in work productivity.
Gateway to Opioid Use
Common opioids include OxyContin and Vicodin, and these are being prescribed often for sprains, joint pain, and permanent disability injuries. Additionally, many workers that have been injured are being found to take these medications for more than three months at a time which significantly raises the risk of developing an addiction to the drug.
An alternative to these painkillers for non-acute pain should be physical therapy. Opioids should not be given for non-severe injuries. However, many use their workers' compensation claims as a gateway to gaining these prescriptions for their injuries no matter the severity.
Workers Comp Trends
The use of opioids for pain management tops the list of workers comp trends to watch for. Many states are now weening injured workers off the drug while also aiming to initiate alternative therapies to help reduce the number of drugs that are given in workers compensation claims.
Opioid use had also been found to hinder the return to work for most injured employees because these prescriptions more than triple the total duration of temporary disability for injuries. This is in comparison to work-related, nonsurgical claims in which no opioids were prescribed at all for the worker.
Avoiding Opioid Misuse by Injured Workers
Opioids are a prescription that makes far more sense for critically ill or terminally ill patients in a good amount of pain. They are also acceptable for severe injuries including invasive surgery and amputations. However, a lot more of the minor injuries in recent years have been treated with this very strong drug when it very well could be avoided.
Workers' comp is trying to turn this problem around by educating the workforce. Instead of simply accepting whatever prescription you are given for your workplace injuries, you should question why you are being given that prescription. Many will accept with no questions asked. Many people aren't even aware of exactly what it is they will be ingesting and the possibility of addiction when taking these prescriptions because they don't ask questions.
When running through workers' compensation training topics, better education about opioids and opioid usage should be included. The alternatives should also be suggested so they know that there is more out there for them to help manage their pain and injuries following an accident.
Understanding the benefits versus the risks is one of the first steps to take to help turn the opioid problem around and regain control of your business, boost the productivity levels, and be mindful of your employees well-being.