Injured Workers And Painkiller Addiction In North Carolina: A Growing Issue

This month the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) released a new study that examined the use of narcotic painkillers by injured workers in a number of states, including North Carolina. The findings were surprising: some states prescribe significantly more power drugs than others, while other states, like North Carolina, have a high percentage of workers taking painkillers for long-term periods of time.

Unfortunately, what begins with a painful on-the-job injury can turn into dependency, abuse, and addiction. Over half of injured workers are prescribed some kind of drug that can lead to addiction, and all too often the worker’s doctor and employer do not take an active enough role to ensure that the worker is aware of the dangers of prescription narcotics and continued use of painkillers.

What are some of the common causes of worker painkiller and narcotics addiction?

•    Doctors who fail to follow prescription and treatment guidelines.
•    Poor employer involvement and oversight.
•    Chronic pain that is not properly treated.
•    Powerful narcotics, such as Oxycotin, which can quickly cause physical dependence.
•    Mental health issues, some of which could be related to the original work injury.

Workers with prescription medication addictions face a number of challenges, while employers also suffer from workers with injury-related drug dependency issues. Workers with medication abuse issues can have more trouble returning to work, and, once back at work, could be a danger to themselves or others. More generally, drug addictions can severely affect a workers’ financial security, family life, and long-term health.

How can workers, doctors, workers’ comp insurance companies, and employers help stop worker injury related painkiller addiction? Many worker advocates believe that education is the first step toward stalling these growing numbers – including educating physicians, injury victims, and businesses about the dangers of drug dependency after a work injury.

Did you know that your employer could be responsible for the cost of substance abuse and drug dependency treatment if you become reliant on prescription painkillers following a work accident?