- A new opioid interstate study reports decreases in the amount and frequency of the drug prescribed to injured employees covered by workers' compensation in several states. However, the Workers Compensation Research Institute's (WCRI's) study, Interstate Variations in Use of Opioids, 4th Edition, also found higher opioid use and other patterns of high-risk drug use in other states during the same time period.
- The study examined 26 states' workers' compensation (WC) systems, which covered more than 430,000 nonsurgical WC claims and about 2.3 million prescriptions connected with those claims. The study also found that New York, Michigan, Kentucky and Maryland had the highest reduction in opioid use among the states with lower average uses by workers injured in 2010 and 2013.
- Between 65% to 75% of injured workers on pain killers had at least one opioid prescription between 2013 to 2015, with the highest incidents in Arkansas (85%), South Carolina (80%) and Louisiana (80%). New York, Pennsylvania and Louisiana had the highest number of opioid claims among the 26 states — though, again, New York did see substantial decreases.
Employers cite workers' comp costs as among their biggest expenses. Add in opioid use and possible addiction among WC claimants and treatment costs could skyrocket.
The WCRI study shows decreases in opioid prescriptions in most of the 26 states it observed. But opioid addiction from pain-killers reportedly has reached epidemic heights.
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is officially monitoring federal employees' use of opioids under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act, which, like the states' workers' comp system, provides ill and injured workers benefits coverage, partly driven by that epidemic.
More U.S. workers are testing positive for drug use, according to a Quest Diagnostics study. In fact, addiction to cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines is at a 12-year high, the study shows. Increases in drug addiction could present more misconduct issues for employers and raise treatment costs.