Study details factors linked to longer opioid use by injured workers

Despite substantial reductions in recent years, opioids continue to be widely dispensed to workers with work-related injuries in several states, according to a study released Thursday by the Workers Compensation Research Institute.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based institute studied factors that are associated with longer-term opioid use, finding that the strongest predictor of such use is opioid prescribing early in a claim.

Specifically, the study found that among workers with three days’ supply of opioids or less within 90 days, 5% received opioids for longer terms. Among workers with eight to 14 days of supply, 7% received long-term prescriptions. For those whose first fill was for 15 to 30 days of supply, that figure stood at 9%. Among workers with more than 30 days of supply, 14% had longer-term opioid dispensing.

The study also uncovered other factors linked to longer-term opioid dispensing, including: whether an injured worker received a higher number of days’ supply of opioids early after an injury; took a higher total dose of opioids in the initial 90-day period; simultaneously received opioids and other central nervous system depressants; had three or more opioid prescriptions within the first 90 days after the injury, compared with those who received one or two opioid prescriptions; and experienced a longer time between an injury and the initial opioid prescription.

The data for the study included workers in 33 states with more than seven days of lost time who suffered injuries in 2016.

This article was first published in Business Insurance.

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