Opioid Crisis and Workers' Compensation
From the Desk Of: Scott M. Tilley, Esq.
Managing Attorney, San Bernardino
Certified Specialist, Workers' Compensation Law,
The State Bar of California,
Board of Legal Specialization
As I am sure all of you know, our country continues to struggle with an opioid crisis. It impacts every level of our society and there is probably not one of you that has not been impacted, either knowingly or unknowingly, by this issue. Statistics show that every day more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Opioid addiction is a crisis that not only impacts the health of our citizens and workers but also the social and economic well-being of our country. In California, opioids represent the largest category of medications prescribed to injured workers (according to the California Workers' Compensation Institute) and they lead to more serious issues than the pain they are intended to prevent. However, there are signs of progress and avenues of hope in this crisis.
According to a recent study found in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there is no appreciable difference in pain reduction as between opioid and non-opioid medications. You can find the study here . This finding has the potential of spurring landscape altering change in our system, our state and our country. Imagine a workers' compensation system that moves towards non-addicting pain relief for injured workers. That has the potential of saving lives and families.
Another bright spot is that opioid usage in California is down according to the Insurance Journal . However, even in moderately reduced numbers, opioids still represent a danger to the health and welfare of the work force in California and a tremendous cost driver in the workers’ compensation system. Given the findings of JAMA noted above, it’s time for the workers’ compensation community to rethink the role of opioids in our system. While our firm strives to provide the absolute best defense on behalf of our clients, we also understand that workers' compensation involves real people with real issues. We also realize that change needs to come on the issue of opioid use. We hope that in broadcasting the above studies to a wider audience, we can help move that change forward