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Opioid Use After a Work Injury: How Does Wisconsin Rank?

It seems that nearly every day there is a news story that talks about the opioid epidemic that’s making its way throughout the United States. While there are a variety of reasons for the rise of opioid use in recent decades, one often overlooked area where opioid use is found is in post-work injury care.

To be clear, many of the opioids that are prescribed and used in these situations are being used properly and for their intended purpose – pain control. However, it’s nonetheless important to look at this usage in order to:

  • Track trends about the overall amount and types of opioids being prescribed
  • See if medical providers are making proper decisions based on potential opioid/non-opioid prescription interactions
  • Seeing how Wisconsin opioid prescription usage compares to other states

How Often Are Doctors Prescribing Opioids To Injured Workers In Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Public Radio recently analyzed the data from a study (by the Workers Compensation Research Institute) on the use of opioids for pain control following a workplace accident or work-related injury. The study found that:

  • Compared to other states that were included in the study, Wisconsin had a low rate of post-work injury opioid use (and prescription)
  • During the six year period covered in the study, Wisconsin’s rate of opioid prescription by medical providers remained flat
  • More than five percent of those who were prescribed opioids were in potential danger due to possible side effects with other medications they were taking, which the medical provider either ignored or was not aware

The Future of Opioids For Post-Workplace Injury Care

Opioid use (both legal and illegal) has become such a hot button topic that it would be surprising if there was not some type of legislative reform in the next few years. What that reform will look like remains a mystery, but it will likely contain provisions designed to decrease the likelihood that those who properly receive opioids as a part of their workers’ comp treatment plan become addicted and later seek out the drugs illegally.

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