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Work Injuries Need Proper Medical Attention -- Not Excessive Reliance on Prescription Drugs

If you get hurt on the job, it's important to get the medical treatment you need. Work injuries are often painful, and medication to ease the pain is often needed during the recovery period.

Recent research indicates, however, that misuse of certain drugs is widespread in the treatment of chronic pain from workplace injuries. This research has implications for North Carolina workers' compensation cases.

Drugs that are designed for short-term pain relief or for end-of-life cancer pain should be used to treat chronic work pain. Misusing such drugs for that purpose prevents people from getting the care they really need - and can even result in wrongful death.

For work injuries, proper care does not normally include using a lot of opiod drugs like Vicodin. But the big drug companies continue to mass produce those drugs and pressure physicians to prescribe them.

The National Centers for Disease Control recently tried to quantify the extent of this problem. The CDC reported that, in 2007, drug companies produced 698 mg of Vicodin per person in the United States. That compares to 96 mg in 1997. This six-fold increase in only ten years is the tip of the iceberg of the problem of misuse of prescription opiod drugs for work injuries.

With so much misuse of drugs, the danger of overdoses is very real. And indeed, from 1999 to 2007, the number of overdose deaths from prescription opiods increased 300 percent.

Further evidence of the excessive increase in the use of opiod prescription drugs to treat work injuries comes from the National Council on Compensation Insurance.

Last year, the NCCI reported in an update to the Workers' Compensation Prescription Drug Study that the percentage of workers' comp medical costs that goes to prescriptions has increased from two percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2000. By 2011, it had nearly doubled again, to 19 percent of total medical costs.

Source: "Opioid Use a Growing Epidemic in Workers' Comp," Property Casualty 360," 1-13-12

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