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The dangers of opioid painkillers for injured workers

New York residents likely know that the problem of prescription medication abuse has grown dramatically in recent years. Narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin can be highly addictive, and they are among the ones that are most abused by Americans. These painkillers are often prescribed to those recovering from injuries suffered while at work, and a report issued by the National Safety Council concluded that prescription medication abuse is becoming a serious issue for workers' compensation programs.

The NSC report found that more than a quarter of workers' compensation drug costs are attributable to opioid painkillers, and the researchers discovered that workers taking these addictive drugs for over a week were more than twice as likely to become disabled. The NSC report also described cases where injured workers died of a drug overdose after becoming addicted.

The problem of prescription drug abuse among injured workers has led many courts to hold employers and workers' compensation insurance providers financially accountable. Courts have ordered that the costs of rehabilitation programs for addicted workers be paid for by employers and insurance companies, and the families of workers who died of an overdose have been awarded death benefits. According to the NSC, employers can reduce their risks of being ordered to pay these kinds of costs by taking proactive steps such as setting up drug monitoring programs, appointing managers to supervise pharmacy benefits and establishing programs to warn injured workers about the dangers of painkiller addiction.

Attorneys with workers' compensation experience may have encountered the problems associated with prescription medication abuse, and they could refer injured workers to support programs when their employers take no action. Attorneys may also assist clients who have been injured on the job with the claims process to help ensure that they receive all of the benefits they are entitled to.

Source: EHS Today, "Prescription Pain Meds: Sweet Relief or a Fatal Cure?", Sandy Smith, July 15, 2015

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