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Prescription medication addiction among injured workers

New Jersey residents may be aware that prescription medication abuse has become a serious problem for many Americans. Opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are among the prescription medications most commonly abused, and many workers recovering from an injury suffered while on the job are prescribed these highly addictive drugs. The issue was investigated by the National Safety Council, which found that these painkillers account for more than a quarter of workers' compensation drug costs.

The NSC report also revealed that workers often suffer subsequent injuries after being prescribed opioid painkillers. According to the NTC researchers, injured workers have twice the risk of becoming disabled when they take opioid painkillers for more than a week. The costs associated with their workers' compensation claims are often far higher than the claims of workers who are not prescribed the drugs.

The problems associated with opioid painkillers has prompted courts to order workers' compensation insurance companies and employers to pay death benefits to the families of injured workers who have died of a drug overdose after taking addictive painkillers. Courts have also ordered that the costs of detoxification and rehabilitation be covered for injured workers. The researchers say that employers can do their part to stem the problem by taking steps such as appointing pharmacy benefit managers, establishing drug monitoring programs, and instituting programs to educate workers about the risks.

Attorneys with experience in workers' compensation cases may be aware of the dangers of prescription drug addiction and could suggest support programs to injured workers when their employers choose not to get involved. An attorney could also represent injured workers during workers' compensation hearings if an employer claims that the injuries are being exaggerated or were not suffered while on the job.

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

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