In­jured work­ers turn to opi­oids

The Capital - - NEWS - By Mered­ith Cohn

Close to a third of Mary­land work­ers who filed in­jury com­pen­sa­tion claims in re­cent years con­tin­ued to rely on highly ad­dic­tive opi­oid painkillers three months af­ter they were hurt, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study by Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Medicine re­searchers.

Ex­ces­sive use of painkillers such as OxyCon­tin and Vi­codin, along with use of the il­le­gal opi­oids heroin and fen­tanyl, has been cited in the opi­oid over­dose cri­sis around the na­tion that has led to tens of thou­sands of deaths a year.

The re­searchers combed through data from nearly 9,600 peo­ple who filed claims from 2008 through 2016 through Ch­e­sa­peake Em­ploy­ers’ In­sur­ance Com­pany in Mary­land. They wanted to bet­ter un­der­stand how many in­jured work­ers may be de­pen­dent on opi­oids and what char­ac­ter­is­tics they shared so bet­ter in­ter­ven­tions could be de­vel­oped to stem the over­dose epi­demic.

The study, pub­lished last month in JAMA Net­work Open, con­cluded that there were spe­cific work­ers at high risk for de­pen­dence and per­haps some should not have been given opi­oid pre­scrip­tions. Re­searchers found that work­ers who were age 60 or older, earned at least $60,000 and suf­fered strain, sprain and crush in­juries were more likely to keep re­fill­ing their opi­oid pre­scrip­tions.

“The find­ings sug­gest work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion claimants have a high pro­por­tion of per­sis­tent opi­oid use,” the re­searchers wrote in the study. “In­ter­ven­tions to lower per­sis­tent opi­oid use among this pop­u­la­tion should tar­get pa­tients with the iden­ti­fied fac­tors, and since per­sis­tent opi­oid use does not cor­re­late with in­jury sever­ity, con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to not ini­ti­at­ing opi­oid use for non-se­vere in­juries.”

The num­ber of peo­ple fa­tally over­dos­ing on pre­scrip­tion opi­oids in Mary­land has been drop­ping as deaths from po­tent il­le­gal forms of opi­oids grows, ac­cord­ing to re­cent re­ports from state health of­fi­cials. There were 1,325 to­tal over­dose deaths in Mary­land in the first half of 2018 and 90 per­cent were at­trib­uted to opi­oids of all kinds. About 200 were re­lated to pre­scrip­tion opi­oids dur­ing that time, af­ter peak­ing in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the state De­part­ment of Health.

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