Prescription narcotics used in workman's comp injury management for the treatment of pain can be a godsend, but the dangerously addictive nature of these drugs is increasingly overshadowing their benefits. Drugs like OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin can be as addictive as heroin, with side effects just as dangerous. Even commonly used painkillers like acetaminophen pose a serious threat.
Are pain killers really that bad?
Millions are addicted to or dependent on prescription narcotics. The proof is apparent and staggering. Forty-six people daily – 17,000/year – die from overdoses, half of which are linked to legitimate prescriptions. The biggest contributor: narcotics inappropriately prescribed for chronic pain. It’s no surprise overdoses have risen 400% since 1999, since narcotic prescriptions have climbed 300% in just the past decade.
Think acetaminophen is better?
This OTC “solution” sends 80,000 overdoses to the E.R. annually, and is the most common cause of liver failure in the U.S. Contributing to the problem: Disturbingly varied maximum daily dosages by brand, and the prevalence of acetaminophen in multitudinous remedies (cold/cough, sleep, allergy, etc.), making accidental overdose common.
How’s the FDA helping?
Last December, against the recommendation of its own panel of expert advisors, the FDA opted to approve a long-lasting version of hydrocodone, stating the benefits outweighed the risks, and products are safe thanks to warning labels. Attorney generals from 28 states and more than a dozen Republican and Democratic Congress members are trying to intervene, but changes aren’t likely to occur in time to help injured workers.
What can you do?
In workman's comp injury management, watch out for painkillers. Learn when painkillers are truly needed, the risks for both opioid and OTC varieties. Learn more in our next post on Wednesday for part two of this important topic.