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Using Narcotic Painkillers After Work Injuries

Each person has his or her own threshold for pain. Some people can tolerate more than others.

But in the case of a serious back injury or other workplace injury, the use of narcotic painkillers is often needed, even for those with a high pain tolerance.

Such painkillers are sometimes called opiods because many of them are produced naturally from opium. Others are made synthetically. Methadone and oxycodone are two of the most common of these drugs.

Insurers sometimes get concerned that opiods are being overused. In a recent study funded by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), the researchers found that longer-term use of narcotic painkillers increased in 10 of the 21 states studied.

The researchers defined "longer-term" users as those who received a prescription for opioids in the first three months after an injury, and then had three or more follow-up visits to refill such prescriptions from 7 to 12 months after the injury.

Pennsylvania was one of the states studied. The WCRI found that "longer-term use of opioids continued to be prevalent in workers' compensation" in Pennsylvania and several others states.

The WCRI says it is concerned about people becoming addicted to narcotic painkillers or overdosing on them, perhaps even fatally.

The potential for misuse of opioids is certainly a legitimate concern. But it should also be noted that narcotic painkillers play an important role in relieving severe pain. This includes severe pain after workplace injuries.

To be sure, dispensing narcotic painkillers should not be considered routine. But neither should they be denied to those who really are suffering.

Source: "WCRI: Longer-Term Opiod Use for Workers' Comp Claimants Rises in 10 of 21 States Studied," Property Casualty 360, Phil Gusman, 10-3-12

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