At the 2018 WCRI Annual Issues & Research Conference, a panel discussed the impact of opioids and prescription drugs on the workplace. The panel included:
- Dr Bogdan Savych, WCRI
- Jane Terry, National Safety Council
- Joan Vincenz, United Airlines
WCRI studies have long shown the widespread use of opioids in workers’ compensation. A recent WCRI study focused on the impact these drugs have on duration of disability. The study showed temporary disability duration was 251% higher on claims receiving opioids on a long-term basis. The higher the dosage, the greater the increase in disability.
A study from the National Safety Council showed that over 70% of employers have been impacted in some way by prescription drugs in the workplace. The top impacts are absenteeism, positive drug tests, impaired performance, or near miss or injuries caused by the drug use. 10% of employers have experienced a drug overdose in the workplace.
One employer’s solution to the issue of opioid over-prescribing was to create their own formulary that they implemented nationwide. Their goal was to prevent over-prescribing these drugs at the front end. If a case reached four weeks post surgery with an opioid prescription significant additional resources were deployed including nurse case managers. They do offer drug rehab and weaning programs to workers who become opioid addicted but unfortunately the worker too often refuses these efforts.
Their experience showed claims with opioids had three times the length of disability of other claims. This is similar to what the WCRI studies showed. Their studies also showed certain jurisdictions had significantly higher prescribing of opioids with California and Illinois being the leading states.