In 2017, Ohio had the second highest rate of opioid overdose deaths in the country. For every 100,000 residents, we lost almost 39.2 people to this deadly epidemic that year.
Despite the recent increase in awareness of the opioid addiction problem, Ohio’s overdose death rate increased by 19 percent between 2016 and 2017.
The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is doing its part to reduce opioid dependence and overdose among injured workers. It recently took the step of dropping the opioid painkiller OxyContin from its list of covered prescription medications altogether.
By forcing doctors to find less addictive methods of pain management that aren't likely to be abused, the BWC hopes they can lower rates of addiction among people collecting workers’ comp.
What Is OxyContin?
OxyContin is the brand name for oxycodone hydrochloride, a narcotic analgesic with a special chemical coating that dissolves slowly in the stomach, giving long-term relief for those suffering from chronic pain.
OxyContin and its generic equivalents are popular among drug abusers because it’s easy to remove the slow-release coating and crush, snort, or inject it to get an immediate rush. The effect is likened to heroin.
It's also far too easy to overdose on OxyContin because it's meant to provide 24-hour pain relief, so a single pill without the protective coating is very potent. No new prescriptions will be allowed as of June 1, 2019, but injured workers currently on OxyContin will have until December 31, 2019, to switch to another medication.
The BWC hasn't eliminated immediate-release oxycodone formulations used for acute pain management.
The BWC Will Cover Alternative Pain Relievers
OxyContin was replaced in the BWC’s prescription drug formulary with Xtampza ER. This medication is also a slow-release form of oxycodone but is tamper-resistant, making it much harder, if not impossible, to abuse.
The BWC believes this is the best way to provide pain relief to injured workers while protecting them from opioid addiction. The BWC has also included medications such as Narcan, which reverse the effects of opioid overdose, in its formulary.
Opioid Use Delays Workers Returning to Work
There's some thought-provoking research on how opioid painkillers affect an injured worker’s recovery. According to the National Safety Council, a study out of Washington State found that workers who received more than a week’s supply of an opioid, or two or more opioid prescriptions soon after an injury, were two times more likely to be disabled a year post-injury than workers who weren't given an opiate. The study is being used to promote the idea that these drugs are causing extended disability rather than explore whether opioids are prescribed for more severe injuries in the first place. Still, there is little doubt opiates have the potential for addiction, and the political climate favors action by state governments to limit their use.
A worker using a narcotic pain reliever for three months or longer may develop dependency and is at risk for addiction.
If you or a loved one is taking Xtampza, Percocet, Percodan, Vicodin, Lorcet, or another painkiller, be on the lookout for these signs of possible addiction:
- Sudden dramatic weight loss
- Changes in expected emotional response
- Rapid mood swings
- Dramatic changes in sleep patterns
- Constipation without reasonable explanation
- Small or pinpoint pupils
It's bad enough that you or a loved one suffered a back, knee, hip, or another painful injury at work. Don't let a physician mask your pain with medication. Since everyone has a different pain threshold, it's critical to be detailed with your doctor about how you feel and ask for other medically-approved methods not only for pain management but also to get to the root cause of reactionary nerve receptors.
Can Monast Law Office Help You?
If you were injured on the job, you may have your medical treatments reimbursed, your temporary wages paid, and to recover mentally and physically without the risk of becoming addicted to pain medication. Our staff members can give you accurate information that allows you to make daily life choices throughout your recovery.
For more information and a personalized assessment of your claim, contact us to begin your initial consultation. Get the information you need to protect your rights by requesting a free copy of our book, The Worker’s Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio.