Opioids and the Workers’ Compensation Claim, 0318 ALBJ, 79 The Alabama Lawyer 111 (2018)

Author:Bernard D. Nomberg
Position:Vol. 79 2 Pg. 111

Opioids and the Workers’ Compensation Claim

Vol. 79 No. 2 Pg. 111

Alabama Bar Lawyer

March, 2018

Bernard D. Nomberg

Recently, injuries covered by workers’ compensation have seen a rise in the prescriptions of strong painkillers for routine injuries. The effect: injured employees must be wary of the potential for addiction. Employers must be wary of employees who return to work, but who may still taking prescribed narcotics, or worse, taking under-the-counter opioids.

The Culprits

Oxycontin, Percocet, Lortab and Vicodin. Different name, same game. All are in a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids are a type of narcotic painkiller that block pain signals from reaching the brain. The synthetic drugs get their name from the opium poppy and mimic the effects of natural opium–a euphoric “high.”

Why opioids?

Presently, painkillers have been prescribed for injuries such as back pain; however, there is little evidence to support that painkillers have long-term benefits to the user.1 While the prescriptions have potential side effects of drowsiness and lethargy, the narcotics can also become a source of addiction.

Painkillers can be an effective option to help with workplace injuries, but it is important to acknowledge which injuries are appropriately treated by opioids and which are better treated with other medications. Alternative treatment forms should be considered: acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation, yoga and marijuana are forms of alternative treatments for chronic pain. The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) even issued guidelines which instruct doctors to prescribe opioids for chronic pain only where all other options have been exhausted. Yet, according to a 2016 National Safety Council survey, 99 percent of doctors prescribe them for longer than the CDC-recom-mended three-day period.

Opioid Epidemic

There a national opioid overdose epidemic. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 12,990 overdose deaths related to...

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