Reducing the Risk of Worker Prescription Use

In previous posts we have discussed the danger of prescription drugs and job performance. According to recent reports, the long-term use of prescription drugs has been costly to families, workers and their employers. In addition to reduced function and capacity, some workers are at risk of overuse and the dangers of addiction. The health risks associated with the use of opiates in particular has raised concern for many medical professionals. For employers, drugs may delay an employee’s return to work and lead to additional workers’ compensation claims.

Workers who suffer job injury may require pain medication and other prescription drugs after an accident. Our Greensboro workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping these work injury victims recover medical support and obtain appropriate treatment after an accident. We are also abreast of current trends in the workers’ compensation industry and dedicated to keeping local employers and employees informed of worker-related issues, including the overuse of prescription medication.


According to the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), nearly 80 percent of workers who suffered from an injury were prescribed at least one opioid prescription. Some workers used as many as 6 different prescriptions over the course of 12 months after an injury. While the majority of patients are simply following doctors’ orders, some of the patients could be susceptible to addiction and overuse of the drugs. If you or someone you love has been prescribed a narcotic after an injury, be wary of the potentially addictive nature of these drugs.

Some safety advocates have urged drug testing patients to determine which workers could be abusing or addicted to the prescription medications. Others suggest reducing the use of unnecessary medication in the treatment of injured workers. Those who could be impacted by a worker injury include employers, medical professionals, insurers, and law makers who have a stake in worker and patient health.

In South Carolina and North Carolina, a study found that 10 percent of workers prescribed opiates were taking opioids on a long-term basis after an injury. This study and analysis defined “long-term use” as patients who received opioids within three months of an injury and continued use three to six months after an injury. In these cases, only one in four of the workers were tested for drugs. The study considered 300,000 workers’ compensation claims and the 1.1 million prescriptions affiliated with those claims in 21 different states.

To prevent long-term or overuse, workers should continue to be monitored by health professionals. Treatment guidelines recommend psychological evaluations and check-ins to manage the potential for addiction. In most states only 4 to 7 percent of workers received follow up treatment and additional services, even when prescribed for long-term use.

Employers and employees have an interest in monitoring the use of prescription drugs to prevent additional injuries while on the job and to prevent long-term complications, including addiction. Employers want their employees fully restored and healthy and to reduce workers’ compensation claims. Victims of workplace injury should not have to choose between pain relief and recovery, but they should be aware of the potential risks associated with long-term prescription drug use.

If you or someone you love has suffered work injury in North or South Carolina, contact the Lee Law Offices at 1-800-887-1965 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Entries:

U.S. Craft Breweries Put Worker Safety at Risk
, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, July 19, 2013

New Legislation Aims to Bolster OSHA Role in Worker Safety
, North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Blog, May 25, 2013

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