The abuse of opioids continues to take a toll on injured Pennsylvania workers. It also is a burden on the economy through higher health care costs and lost worker productivity.
Opioids can be part of the treatment plan in your workers’ compensation case. You want to return to work as soon as possible, and the company wants you back as soon as possible. But opioids can make your situation worse.
The depth of the opioids problem
In 2017, Pennsylvania was second in the nation:
- In the number of opioids per claim (87% higher than the median state).
- With 258 pills per claim.
- In the dosage per pill (10.2 mg).
In 2016, the state recorded 4,642 opioid deaths. That works out to about 13 people a day.
Workers taking opioids for lower back injuries had much longer terms of disability. Their average lost-time claim was 900% higher than workers who did not take opioids.
An opioids prescription can lead to misuse, abuse, addiction, respiratory depression and death. The painkiller may not be worth the risk to your health.
Addressing the opioids problem
Opioids can be an effective treatment as you recover from injuries or surgery. To be safe, your dosage should be the lowest possible for the shortest period. Your initial prescription should be no longer than one week.
Doctors should combine an opioids prescription with other treatments, but opioids should not be a replacement for other treatments. Rest, physical therapy, exercise and mindful meditation are other alternatives.
Doctors should track your progress and take you off opioids as soon as your condition allows. Prolonged opioid intake increases risks to your health.
Avoiding an opioids problem
Your goal is returning to work as soon as possible. You know better than anyone else how your body is responding to treatment. Be an active participant in the decision to stop taking opioids.
If you develop a problem, drug abuse programs are available for addiction. If you feel that workers’ compensation mismanaged your case, you can take further action.