Workers’ Compensation: Northeast States Have Highest Rates of Post-Treatment Opioid Addiction Among Workers’ Compensation Recipients
When a worker is injured, a very common course of treatment involves prescribed pain medication. And according to the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), approximately 80% of workers that are given pain medicine receive opioids. This family of medications, however, can be highly addictive. Often, patients continue to take the painkillers six months or a year after they are no longer medically recommended. And in states in the Northeast, especially in New York and Pennsylvania, the rates of those addicted are uniquely high.
“In New York, for example,” said WCRI executive director Richard Victor, “of those who start taking opioids, one-in-seven are still taking opioids six to 12 months later. In a typical state, it’s one-in-15 or one-in-20.”
Of all of New York’s non-surgical workers’ compensation claims that involve narcotic painkillers, 14% qualify as these “longer-term” users. This is the second highest percentage in the country, after only Louisiana. Pennsylvania ties with Texas for third place, at 11%.
There are a number of proposals in both the New York and Pennsylvania legislatures that attempt to deal with this growing problem. In New York, there are two pending bills—A01348 and A02247. The former looks to provide resources to doctors and other healthcare providers to help them identify the symptoms of addiction and be better equipped to handle treatments. The latter would establish the “State Chronic Pain Management Education and Training Council,” an agency that would advise the New York State government on coming up with standards that would manage and treat chronic pain. Both of these proposals come on the heels of a law enacted last year that updated New York’s “Prescription Monitoring Program,” adopting an electronic registry of prescriptions.
In Pennsylvania, there is a pending Senate bill that would create an electronic registry for these types of drugs called the “Pharmaceutical Accountability Monitoring System.”