Pain management is an important consideration for workers who have just suffered an injury on the job. Without a way to control the symptoms, it will be much harder to return to work in a timely fashion. As a result, many people are turning to opioids - powerful pain-relieving drugs - and many more have unfortunately grown dependent on the effects.
This emerging trend of opioid addiction has a direct impact on the insurance industry as a whole, but especially the workers' compensation segment. A number of injured employees who turn to opioids to control pain end up missing more time, and some even develop additional injuries or health concerns that can further complicate matters. Due to these risks, identifying misuse and implementing effective solutions to address this issue should be a priority for employers across the country.
Opioid abuse continues to increase
The number of people in the U.S. misusing opioids has continued to rise over the past several years. As this trend picks up steam, employers may soon be faced with additional problems that can increase costs and complicate the workers' compensation insurance landscape.
According to Insurance Journal, opioids are one of the most important issues currently facing this insurance segment. As a result, many stakeholders, local governments and insurers are focused on finding an effective solution to this growing problem. For many, the first step is to identify the cause, but this goal is easier said than done.
Over the past several years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have taken note of the dangers of opioid misuse, and several studies have taken place to analyze the impact on people and the insurance industry, Insurance Journal noted.
"Drug overdoses, the deaths, are more numerous than motor vehicle crash deaths in the United States," Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, a medical epidemiologist with CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told the media outlet. "And it's gone up for 11 consecutive years as of 2010. We've called it an epidemic, drug overdoses, and it's a high priority topic here at the CDC."
In addition, Insurance Journal explained opioids have become a common prescription for on-the-job injuries, especially those involving the back.
Paulozzi added that opioids are frequently used for back pain, even as a long-term solution.
A focus on rehab can decrease opioid complications
Since the issue of opioid misuse entered the national spotlight, a number of studies have taken place to look at the affect on workers and the impact addiction can have on the workers' compensation insurance industry.
A recent Business Insurance whitepaper titled "Opioid Abuse & Workers Comp" stressed that opioid use has been shown to lead to additional complications for injured employees. In fact, some patients haven't received any positive benefits from use at all. For example, some people prescribed opioids have developed ongoing disability as a result of their dependency, while others have even died.
In addition, Business Insurance explained that opioids can lead to increased medical costs, further complicating a return-to-work program and insurance expenses. One of the biggest problems at the moment are misconceptions about the drugs and the dangers of taking too many at once. Unfortunately, errors have been made by doctors as well as patients, and this can lead to serious hazards down the road for those involved.
With that said, there are solutions to counter opioid abuse. For starters, a strong return-to-work program can control the conditions of an employee's rehabilitation. With the right advisors and professionals in place, it will be easier to recover from an injury and avoid the pitfalls of drug use - while instead focusing on the positives. Such a strategy will help all injured or ill workers get back to their jobs and lives in a timely manner.