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Rate of drug use for work injuries increases in Wisconsin

A concerning study has surfaced about work injuries and employees who receive narcotics to control their pain. In the state of Wisconsin, approximately 4 percent of workers that are injured on the job end up using narcotic painkillers for an extended period of time. Employees suffering from pain after work injuries may very well need the drugs to deal with pain that doesn't respond to other medications. However, the numbers have increased since 2009.

Although the number still falls well below the national average, which hovers around 7 percent, the increase is still concerning. The study found that for every 12 workers injured, one has remained on narcotics for a minimum period of three months after they received their initial prescriptions. Health care experts are now reconsidering prescribing these powerful drugs to treat workers' chronic pain.

Critics of narcotic painkillers believe that it is easy to get addicted to these drugs. The study has also raised questions about the doctor's practice of continuing to monitor their patients who use these drugs over long periods of time. None of the patients in the study received surgery for their injuries.

While many Wisconsin workers need these types of drugs to deal with the aftermath of work injuries, it does seem to be a trend worth further examination. Workers' compensation assists workers with the costs of their injuries and often legitimately funds needed narcotics prescriptions for pain management. However, the fact that the use of such medications continues for long periods of time could potentially place the employee in danger of addiction or even another work injury because of the effects that these drugs can have.

Source: WTAQ News Talk 97.5 FM and 1360 AM, "Study: Nearly 4% of state's injured workers become long-term painkiller users," Oct. 3, 2012

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