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Study Highlights Increased Narcotic Painkiller Use by U.S. Workers on Disability

Abuse of painkillers has become an epidemic in America. The journal Medical Care recently released a study that found a growing number of people on disability from work were prescribed powerful prescription narcotic painkillers.

The research found that about 44 percent of people that receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits were prescribed narcotic painkillers between 2007 and 2011. The percentage of people using the drugs long-term rose from 21 percent in 2007 to 23 percent in 2011. The study focused on Americans younger than 65 who qualified for Medicare benefits because of long-standing workplace injuries. The majority of those examined had a “musculoskeletal” condition, such as chronic back, neck or joint pain.

The use of prescription opioids has increased dramatically in the past decade as prescriptions for OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and other pain medications have climbed 300 percent. Experts say that the trend is worrying because prescription painkillers can be very addictive and can be abused. It is estimated that as many as 25 percent of opioid users for chronic pain will become addicted with long-term use.

In the short term, prescription painkillers can provide some relief to patients, but as people develop tolerances and their doses are increased, they are at a greater risk of addiction and complications. There is no good evidence that supports long-term use as effective for non-cancer pain, and it is known that musculoskeletal conditions, which most people with work disabilities have, do not respond well to prescription painkillers. The DEA recently responded to reports of painkiller abuse and overuse by classifying the most common narcotic ingredient for painkillers, hydrocodone, in a much more restrictive category that will make it significantly more difficult to prescribe and refill. Despite this research, there has been an increase in chronic painkiller use as nearly one quarter of disabled workers were using a prescription painkiller for long-term treatment.

You should consult your medical provider before making any changes in your medications. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of misleading drug information, incorrectly prescribed medication, or overprescribed painkillers, you should consider contacting a medical malpractice attorney at Lopez McHugh for a free consultation. Our prescription overdose lawyers can answer your legal questions confidentially.