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The Opioid Risk for Workers’ Compensation PatientsManaging pain is one of the immediate concerns after a workplace injury. The patient may have intense pain after suffering a traumatic injury or chronic pain from an injury that developed over several years. Physicians sometimes prescribe opioid painkillers as a means of immediate pain relief. However, the public is learning more about the dangers of opioid addiction. Workers’ compensation insurers are taking action against the pharmaceutical companies and physicians who have pushed opioid use, in part because opioid addiction can increase the cost of workers’ compensation. For instance, an Illinois workers’ compensation insurance organization has filed a lawsuit against the makers and distributors of opioids, alleging that they are responsible for an increase in opioid addictions amongst claimants. Injured workers must be careful when using opioids during their injury recovery and should consider alternative methods of pain relief.

Dangers of Opioids

Opioid painkillers are safest when used for a short period. Patients who take opioids for a prolonged period can develop a dependence or addiction to the drug. How quickly the dependence develops depends on the patient and whether they take more than is recommended. Studies suggest that some patients can become dependent in a matter of days. People with opioid addictions may crave increased doses of the drug as their bodies become resistant to it. This increases the risk of overdose and death.

Effect on Workers’ Compensation

According to the National Safety Council, workers who received opioids for more than a week or had more than one opioid prescription are more likely to be on disability a year later. Workers who become dependent on opioids also:

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