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How the Opioid Epidemic Affects Workers’ Compensation Claims and What You Can Do About It

If you pay any attention to the media, then you have heard the reports on the impact of opioid addiction on society. According to the CDC, such drug dependency leads to 40,000 deaths per year in the United States. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of these cases slowing down. Families wind up destroyed, lives are lost and the problem continues to grow. Prescription drugs are responsible for more than half of overdose deaths. Knowing this, you may wonder how are opioids affecting businesses. The answer is in workers’ compensation claims, costs and lost work for businesses.


Image Source: https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2017/03/06/americas-opioid-epidemic-is-worsening

Where Does Opioid Addiction Begin?

While you may understand the dangers of addiction, it’s not always clear how an opioid addiction begins in the workplace. Opioid problems generally begin due to severe or chronic pain. Say that one of your employees suffers an injury on the job. With moderate to severe injuries, doctors may prescribe opiates for the pain. Many patients do not recognize the risk of addiction. Even if they know some details about the opioid epidemic, they may not know how to take the pills responsibly or may not know that there are other options available. The lack of education and the ease in which doctors hand out narcotics to patients leads to a dangerous scenario.

How Does Opioid Addiction Affect Workers’ Compensation?

So, how are opioids affecting businesses and likewise how are opioids affecting business insurance? An example that makes it easy to understand is work-related back pain. This is one of the most prevalent problems in any business. Back pain may begin as a short-term issue but often turns into a long-term problem that requires medication. Opioids are not for long-term use. However, many doctors still prescribe them for chronic back pain.

If the patient’s back pain originated at work then insurance and workers’ compensation may come into play with this person’s case. These situations drive you as an employer to need insurance, to begin with.

However, the problems don’t stop with tack pain. If the patient ended up being prescribed opioids and develops an addiction due to them, then the liability may still end up on you as the employer. After all, the patient was following a doctor-prescribed pain management regimen due to a workplace-related injury. When it comes to workers’ compensation claims, opioid workplace claims are higher. This leads many insurance companies, workers’ compensation stakeholders and companies to look for solutions to the opioid epidemic.

How Can a Business Play an Active Role Against Opioid Addiction?

Business owners do not have to feel helpless when facing this crisis. In fact, there are actions that businesses can take to be at the forefront of the battle against addiction. Here are three key steps that can help fight against drug addiction in the workplace.

1. Create a Drug-Free Policy

Most businesses already have drug-free policies, but it is important that you make your company policy clear and also enforce it. Before you create the policy, consult with a legal team to make sure that you do not ignore any federal or state guidelines. Unauthorized use of prescription pills should be prohibited, and no worker should work while on opioids if the drug is leading to unsafe work practices.

2. Educate Your Employees

When it comes to opioid addiction, education is key to fighting it. While you can’t make choices for your employees, you can educate them on the dangers of opioids. Make sure that your employees understand the importance of questioning doctors when they prescribe opiate medication. After all, opioids are not always necessary or ideal chronic pain management protocols. There may be safer and more effective alternatives.

3. Encourage Addiction Help

If you have any employees who end up dependent on prescription pills, you may want to have programs in place to help. A lot of times, patients experience negative effects when they stop taking the drug and this leads to them taking it for longer than recommended. If you witness drug dependency, stage an intervention. Teach your supervisors or managers on how to spot addictive behavior. While you’re at it, you can always set up a private program for your employees to get help if they need it. Make sure that it is confidential so that employees feel safe seeking assistance.

When it comes to fighting against the opioid epidemic (CNN), employers are able to minimize their risk if they are proactive. In most cases, education is one of the most helpful tools in the arsenal against drug addiction. People who understand the risks of addiction and understand that it could happen to anyone are typically less likely to take opioids for an extended period.

Why Should We Fight Opioid Addiction?

How are opioids affecting businesses? The truth is that they impact businesses in a number of ways. When you have employees dependent on opioids, their productivity is greatly reduced. Likewise, it can severely slow down healing time. You wind up without a worker, while also paying workers’ compensation due to an addiction that might be avoidable. Not only will your work productivity take a hit, but many workers’ compensation claims end up filed because of addiction. What might start out as a temporary injury can turn into a long-term and costly problem.

As the opioid epidemic continues to grow, it’s crucial that businesses develop strategies to fight against this serious issue. Insurers and business owners need to work together to come up with solutions in this crisis to reduce both the financial and human costs.