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Workers' compensation might extend to problems with opioids

Minnesota workers who are injured on the job and subsequently receive treatment will often be given prescription medications. A problem that is growing in scope across the nation has to do with prescription drug misuse and overdose. In some cases, an employee who subsequently abuses these medications might be able to seek workers' compensation benefits for an addiction.

Research has been done to look into painkillers, alternatively known as opioids, that have been prescribed for worker injuries. The numbers indicate that more than one-quarter of workers' compensation drug expenses are for these medications. The research, conducted by the National Safety Council, has referenced 15 legal cases between 2009 and 2015 in which an employer was confronted with litigation because of opioids being prescribed to workers who subsequently had problems with them.

The NSC noted that opioid use for injured workers places them at risk to become addicted and die from an overdose. Courts have made rulings that this is an issue that warrants compensation. Recommendations made by the NSC to lower risk and offset costs due to opioids include implementing guidelines for opioid prescriptions, being cautious with the use of methadone in treating pain not related to cancer, paying attention to worker history with possible past mental issues and drug addiction and having pharmacy benefit managers purchase and manage pharmaceuticals. The NSC has also suggested that providers should monitor drug use and that companies should provide education to their employees about opioid use.

Workers who have been injured on the job and are going through rehabilitation might need to be given prescription medications to manage their pain. Many might not be aware that they can be compensated for treatment for a subsequent addiction in the aftermath of a workplace accident. A workers' compensation attorney might be able to provide guidance on this issue.

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