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How Opioids May Affect Your Workers Compensation Case

One study found that 44% of all workers’ compensation claims in 2016 had at least one prescription for opioids for injured workers.

The opioid crisis is on everyone’s minds. It slowly began to build in the 1990’s and has reached a boiling point in recent years. It’s estimated that over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2018 were related to opioids.

These painkilling drugs are incredibly addictive, and research shows that when a person cannot afford opioids anymore, they often turn to its street alternative, heroin or other narcotics.

Opioids were also routinely prescribed to injured workers as a way to help them manage pain and even get back to work sooner. But do they affect your workers compensation claim?

Opioids and Injured Workers

Research on the topic shows that when opioids are prescribed in workers comp cases, especially if their use goes beyond the acute stage of the pain, the drugs can:

  • Impair function
  • Delay recovery
  • Increase your experience of pain

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries found that employees who received more than a week’s worth supply of opioids double their risk of disability one year after the injury when compared to workers who do not get prescribed opioids.

What’s worse, the impact of opioids can often be present even when the worker returns to work, as opioids are usually prescribed for long-term use. An individual taking opioids of 1-2 months is already at risk of becoming addicted to them, as their body becomes accustomed to the substances and asks for higher dosages to achieve the same effects.

Long-term opioid use can also affect how soon a worker goes back to their job. Data from 28 states on lower back injuries show that people who receive opioids were on temporary disability more than three times longer than those with similar injuries who received alternative treatments.

What Does This Mean?

This, of course, increases worker’s comp costs, as the worker will likely require additional intervention in order to free themselves from opioid addiction – because it was created during the program in the first place, courts agree that worker’s comp should also cover the costs of drug therapy as well.

So while for the insurance companies and employers it is a matter of increased expenses, the injured worker can expect:

  • Longer recovery periods
  • The possibility of becoming addicted
  • Developing tolerance to the medications
  • An increased risk of overdosing

It seems that even though people in general are more aware of the true effects of opioids, they are still a common prescription in worker’s comp claims. One study found that 44% of all workers’ compensation claims in 2016 had at least one prescription for opioids for injured workers.

What Can You Do?

Many workers are afraid to refuse opioids because it puts them at risk of losing their worker’s comp benefits. If you have filed a workers compensation claim and have any questions or concerns regarding your case, contact the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann for a free consultation.

Our attorneys will work with you, regardless of where you are in the process. Attorney James M. Hoffmann has spent a majority of his more than 25-year legal career dedicated to protecting the rights of injured workers.

Call the Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300 for a FREE consultation.

Updated: December 30, 2019