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Opioids and Workers’ Compensation: a Terrible Mixture


It is pretty well known at this point that opioid abuse has become a serious problem in this country. In 2016, there was a record number of drug overdose deaths nationwide according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over 63,000 people died from fatal overdoses, and well over sixty percent of these deaths were the result of situations where prescription or illicit opioids were involved.

Further, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released a press statement indicating that even though the number of workplace fatalities has decreased, unfortunately, the number of opiate related workplace incidents is on the rise. In just one year, the number of unintentional overdoses due to the non-medical use of drugs or alcohol while at work increased by 25 percent.

What is the Problem With Opioids if a Worker is Injured?

Generally speaking, workers’ compensation will not be afforded under Florida law if the injury is caused primarily because the employee is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Therefore, opioid use prior to an injury on-the-job can stop you from being able to obtain workers’ compensation benefit unless you can show that you had a prescription for your opioids.

But What if I Have a Prescription For My Opioids?

Then you can probably still obtain workers’ compensation benefits. Under Florida Law, a claim cannot be denied based solely on the fact that someone is taking prescription medication. Depending on why you are prescribed opiates, you may also qualify for the legal protections extended to disabled individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Disabled employees must be provided with reasonable accommodations under the ADA in order to account for the disability. And if the opioids you are prescribed are to treat injuries that are covered by workers’ compensation, your employer may need to offer you additional accommodations.

How Can Opioids Affect People Receiving Workers’ Compensation?

According to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a high percentage of injured workers who receive workers’ compensation benefits, unfortunately, reportedly use opioids on an ongoing basis. Of the almost-9600 workers who data was collected on, the report determined that a whopping 30 percent of injured workers prescribed opioids are still taking them 3 months after their injuries. And nearly 10 percent of these workers were still filling an opioid prescription over a year after the date of their injury.

What Can Medical Professionals Do to Help?

There is a mutual responsibility between injured workers and workers’ compensation doctors to carefully monitor any opiate prescriptions. At this point, everyone should strive to remain cognizant of the fine line between taking painkillers to numb pain incurred from a workplace injury and the addiction that can develop from these kinds of drugs. As we all know, a prescription doesn’t change the propensity for dependency.

Contact Us For Help

If you have questions about how opioid use may affect your ability to claim workers’ compensation benefits, we can help. We have extensive experience dealing with complex workers’ compensation issues. The experienced Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates will help ensure that you maximize your entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. Begin by contacting us today to schedule a free consultation.


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