Prescription painkiller addiction is a terrible epidemic, and often people start using them not to get high, but because they need them. Maybe a doctor is a little too generous with the painkillers, the patient follows orders, and next thing you know, he’s addicted. It happens surprisingly easily.
This is something that employers with employees injured on the job have to pay particular attention to. People prescribed high levels of opioids tend to take longer to return to work than those prescribed lower doses. The longer a patient takes the drug, the higher his tolerance becomes and the more he needs for pain management.
On the flip side, he may be comfortable, but he’ll also be sedated, making a return to work nearly impossible. And their claims costs could end up being higher than those who are on low doses and could include treatment for opioid dependency. People’s dependence on opioids make it difficult for them to work, which could lead to depression, which could lead to more drug abuse. They end up in a spiral that leaves them permanently disabled.
A quick return to work for a person on high levels of painkillers isn’t any better. In this case, the safety of all workers is at risk. The recently injured person who returns to work on painkillers could be slow to react or could use heavy machinery unsafely. This could put others at risk and result in more workers compensation claims.
Luckily, physicians are aware of the dangers of prescription drugs and are working to put tighter controls on them or be more judicious in their prescribing. In the meantime, employers should be aware of the problem and be aware of the laws surrounding drug testing if they choose to combat the problem through that route.