Study Finds Decrease in Opioids Prescribed to Workers in Many States
A new study found potentially good news amidst the nationwide opioid epidemic. In a 25-state area, researchers found a marked decrease in opioid prescriptions and the amount of opioids received by injured workers between 2009-2014.
Also, six states experienced significant reductions – Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas. The range of reduction in these cases was 20-31%.
The study was implemented by the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI), and was based on data in each state, gathered from filed worker’s compensation claims. The study appears to represent progress as the opioid epidemic in the U.S. has reached an all-time high. Every day, nearly 80 people die of heroin or opioid overdoses.
The WCRI study revealed large variations in opioid prescription rates for injured workers receiving compensation across all the states studied. Also, the study found that prescriptions for opioids were still common all those states:
“Opioid use was prevalent among nonsurgical claims with more than seven days of lost time. About 65 to 80 percent of these injured workers with pain medications received opioids in most states.”
Indeed, even states with lower amounts of opioid prescriptions presented with a high frequency of opioid use.
For example, New Jersey and Illinois, two states on the lower end, still reported that 56% of workers’ compensation recipiients had a prescription for opioids.
According to the report, the highest averages were found in Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania:
“In Louisiana and New York, the average injured worker received over 3,400 milligrams of morphine equivalent opioids per claim, which was double that in the median state, and more than three times the number in the states with the lowest use.”
In Pennsylvania, the average was just under a 3,000 mg of morphine equivalency. No other state outside of these three had an average above 2,000 mg.
Dr. Vennela Thumula, WCRI policy analyst and co-author of the study, said this research could help state officials, insurance carriers, physicians, and others to identify if opioid usage in their state was outside of the norm.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology