Dealing with drug addiction in workers' compensation claims

The injuries that many California employees suffer on the job come with intense pain. Doctors within the workers' compensation system often prescribe powerful, narcotic painkillers to help in that regard. Unfortunately, many workers become addicted to the pain medications and face a new set of problems long after their injuries heal.

Many states are now addressing this problem, in part, by attempting to stem the flow of medications like Vicodin, OxyContin and other opiods that tend to be overprescribed to those injured at work. In addition, programs are expanded to help those addicted to break the habit and recover. Some workers who initially began taking the medications to deal with chronic pain turn to a life of crime in order to support their habits when doctors will no longer prescribe the very medications they originally doled out like candy. 

In 2015 alone, nearly 752,000 public employees and approximately 2.8 million private sector employees suffered non-fatal injuries at work. During that same year, workers' compensation insurers across the country spent over $1.5 billion, yes -- billion, on opiods for those injured workers. That amounts to approximately 13 percent of the total opiods prescribed and sold that year. Research estimates that one out of every 10 injured workers here in California received prescriptions for opiods for long-term use.

The workers' compensation system is intended to help injured workers recover from their injuries and get back to their lives. Overuse of opiods for pain seems to work against that intent. California workers who suffer from opiod addiction due to a work-related injury might be able to receive additional benefits to help with their addiction so they can truly get back to living their lives, but they might need a strong advocate in their corner to help.

Source:, "Workers comp programs fight addiction among injured workers", April 15, 2017

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