The opioid epidemic is an economic and health crisis here in Pennsylvania. Now the Wolf Administration has become involved by introducing new guidelines for prescribing the drugs to injured workers on workers’ compensation. The idea is to prevent workers with chronic pain or acute pain due to injury from becoming addicted to powerful drugs such as Vicodin or OxyContin.

According to the administration, Pennsylvania had 174,216 workers’ compensation claims in 2017. The commonwealth also has the third highest rate of workers who become addicted to these painkillers. These numbers contribute to over 4,642 deaths due to opioid overdoses. Unfortunately, these numbers continue to soar upward.

Recommendations

There is a long list for both acute and chronic injuries, but the general guidelines include:

  • Using non-opioid drugs to manage the pain
  • Use muscle relaxants for strains and sprains
  • Prescribe rest, sleep, ice and chiropractic treatments
  • Prescribe the lowest effective opioid dose possible
  • Educate patients on the safe storage and proper disposal of unused opioids
  • Opioid prescriptions given by ER personnel initially treating the injury should not be long term

Goals for helping workers

The idea for drafting these guidelines with help from The Department of Health and The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs was to achieve the following:

  • Promote the safe and high quality health care to the injured workers
  • Provide pain relief and improvement of functions to workers
  • To be used in conjunction with other treatment prescribed
  • Reduce or prevent complications from using these drugs, including addiction
  • Promote prescribing practices that increase function of the worker

Those addicted do have options

Injured workers who become addicted to their prescription drugs should speak with their doctors. Options can be explored, including a safe way to get the treatment needed under these trying circumstances.