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The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on the American Workplace

Addiction to prescription opioid medications has reached epidemic proportions in recent years, creating concern within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. At issue is an apparent vicious cycle in which workers who are injured, either on or off the job, get hooked on prescription pain relievers and either cannot return to work or return impaired, at greater risk of causing an accident that injures themselves or others.

The CDC website notes that:

“Prescription drug abuse impacts nearly all aspects of society. Workers in all industries or sectors may face unique risks as injuries sustained at work are increasingly treated with powerful prescription drugs including opioids such as fentanyl (Duragesic®, Actiq®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®, Lortab®), oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), and oxymorphone (Opana®, Numorphan®). Recent workers’ compensation studies reveal that there is increasing use of prescription drugs in workers’ compensation claims and that narcotics account for 25% of drug costs in such claims. Work-related issues associated with increased opioid use include the potential for: (a) work-related injuries to initiate prescription drug (including opioid) use and possibly subsequent misuse; and (b) increases in worker injuries associated with use of such drugs as contributing or causative factors.”

In response, another CDC agency, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, has issued draft guidelines for prescribing opioid medications. The draft received 4,373 written comments during the comment period, which are being reviewed prior to issuing final guidelines.

As attorneys who assist clients with workers’ compensation claims, Rudberg Law Offices, LLC is very concerned about proper medical care for injured workers. We urge healthcare professionals and their patients to consider the long-term ramifications of prescribing or taking powerful narcotic drugs for pain relief. Also, the risk of a drug-related overdose is a reality.

If you have been injured in a work-related accident, Rudberg Law Offices, LLC can help you get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call 412-488-6000 or contact our Pittsburgh office online.

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