15 May Workers Comp and Addiction
Workers compensation programs and the benefits that they provide go a great way towards helping families and workers who have been injured on the job, financially, so that they can afford medical care and to live while they can’t work. However, one aspect of these programs that many states are now realizing that they need to deal with is the fact that our current medical system places too much responsibility on powerful prescription medications that have a history of being addictive. This puts these programs in a precarious position where they might actually be doing more harm to some workers than good, if they should develop a dependency. Here is some information about workers comp and addiction…
Overprescribing work injuries
The main reason that most individuals are awarded workers compensation benefits is due to an injury that was sustained while they were at work. Off the bat, this creates a situation where the worker is likely in a great deal of pain that they are looking to manage. Currently, the status quo of physicians is to trust what a patient needs based on their own descriptions, for better or for worse. Currently, this structural issue has contributed to skyrocketing addiction rates since 1995. When workers become addicted to their medications, it leads to a host of questions about the responsibility of these government programs to protect workers and cover costs of a dependency that they contributed to.
In Massachusetts, the state’s workers compensation program has been changed to provide different forms of treatment for injured workers. Ideally, this means that dangerous prescription medications will only be used in situations where they are entirely necessary (which they certainly can be). The hope with this program is that it will work against and change the habits of an industry that uses prescription drugs as a first resort option.
Opioids can lead to stronger drugs
This problem isn’t insulated and contained to prescription drugs. One of the most apparent things about our current opioid epidemic in the United States is that there is a clear pipeline from prescription opioids to stronger substances, like heroin. Many workers who benefit from workers comp programs are already in demographics that are more likely to suffer from substance abuse. The risk of putting these workers into a pipeline that could lead to heroin addiction is inherently disturbing.