Injured workers who were prescribed opiates such as Oxycontin soon after their injury took much longer to return to work (if ever), as reported by California insurance companies. The prescription rate for opiates (painkillers) for injured workers in California skyrocketed 63% from 2001 to 2008.
The cost of an employee’s medical expenses and lost wages is about $13,000 on average. Insurance companies found the cost went up to $39,000 after the injured worker was prescribed opiates like Percocet. The cost went up to $117,00 per claim when the employee was prescribed Oxycontin, a more powerful and more addictive drug.
Physical therapy seems to help more than drugs, but the reimbursement to doctors for physical therapy has been much less than when they prescribe pain killers.
If you are injured, and in pain, and prescribed an opiate, yo may be going back to work , if at all because opiate treatment does little for permanent relief. Studies show that physical therapy holds the best hope for pain relief, but you may have to pressure your insurance provider to approve those services, that ironically saves the insurance company money.
In cases where workers use other drugs to avoid the stronger narcotics, drug testing may find that employees may self-medicate with over the counter medications, illegal substances like marijuana or the more dangerous synthetic marijuana called “spice.”
Injured workers can learn more about the appropriate use of over the counter medications, stress relief and avoiding relapse by taking an online drug awareness class. Employers should carefully scrutinize what their workers are using by using random drug testing and referring them for a drug abuse assessment. When the injured worker and the employer work together, they both benefit.