Research conducted by the Workers Compensation Research Institute has found that the prescription of opioid painkillers like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone to workers’ compensation claimants fell sharply between March 2012 and March 2014. South Carolina was one of 25 states studied by the Massachusetts-based nonprofit group, and opioid prescriptions to injured workers in the Palmetto State fell about 15 percent during the period reviewed. An increase in opioid prescriptions was only seen in Virginia, Missouri, Iowa and Wisconsin. The largest fall in opiod prescriptions was observed in Michigan.
Researchers noticed that falling opioid prescription rates often coincided with state efforts to curb the use of these powerful and highly addictive drugs. Such efforts generally include putting more stringent prescription drug monitoring programs into place and setting up drug formularies for workers’ compensation claimants. Many states have also launched public awareness campaigns designed to highlight the dangers of opioid addiction and abuse.
However, the research also revealed that the prescription of opioid pain medication to injured workers remains common. In the majority of the states studied, doctors prescribed opioids to treat the pain of injured workers between 65 and 85 percent of the time. The researchers also found that opioids are frequently prescribed in combination with muscle relaxants. The researchers came to their conclusions after studying more than 300,000 workers’ compensation claims and nearly 1.9 million prescriptions.
Workplace injuries are often extremely painful, and those who suffer them must sometimes face long periods of difficult rehabilitation before they are able to return to their jobs. Attorneys with experience of workers’ compensation cases will likely be aware of the addictive properties of opioid painkillers, and they might suggest that their clients seek a second medical opinion or educate themselves regarding the risks before taking these narcotic drugs.