Do your workers have a problem with prescription painkillers? Odds are that some of them do—and that the number is increasing. Use of opioid painkillers like OxyContin®, Vicodin®, and Percoset® has increased throughout the United States since the 1990s, when new formulations made the drugs practical to use for long-term, chronic pain. The drugs are effective at fighting pain, but their side effects include addiction and deadly overdoses.
According to the National Safety Council’s (NSC) Injury Facts 2015, accidental poisonings are now the leading cause of accidental death in the general population, and prescription painkillers account for most of those fatalities. And now there are some new twists in the tale of opioid painkillers in the workplace: Employers may be contributing to the problem when these drugs are paid for by workers’ compensation.
Two new reports have identified cost and safety issues created by prescription painkiller use in connection with workers’ comp claims. The NSC’s Prescription Pain Medications: A Fatal Cure for Injured Workers was published in July 2015; the California Workers’ Compensation Institute (CWCI) published The Utilization and Cost of Drug Testing in the California Workers’ Compensation System in October 2015.