WHEN EMPLOYEES INJURE THEM-
selves at work, a potentially lethal risk
may ensue — they may be prescribed and
become addicted to an opioid painkiller.
As we know, the United States is currently
experiencing an opioid epidemic — with
130 people dying every day from opioid
overdoses. And in many cases, the addiction began with a work-related injury.
As a licensed therapist, I previously
worked with patients who suffered from
opioid addictions both in inpatient and
outpatient settings. It was heartbreaking
to see people struggle to cope with these
dependencies, and over the years, it was
the small successes that kept me going.
Today, my clinical experience in the
drug rehab setting has been useful in the
case management of workers’ compensa-
tion claims, as there are many opportuni-
ties to prevent cases from going down a
path to opioid use, abuse and addiction.
Here are key best practices claims profes-
sionals should strive to foster among all
workers’ comp stakeholders.
CREATING A POSITIVE WORK-
ERS’ COMP EXPERIENCE
1. Shift the health care
mindset from “pain-free”
to “managed pain.”
In the United States, pain treatment has
too often been interpreted as the need to
achieve an immediate pain-free status.
This mindset has been a major contributing factor to the opioid epidemic. Trying
to change this way of thinking continues
to be a huge challenge. Though new prescribing guidelines have and are being
put into place, many patients are still being prescribed opioids as a first option in
managing pain when more conventional
strategies should be tried first.
It’s a hard reality to face, but with work-
ers’ comp injuries, some pain is unavoid-
able. Injuries hurt, as do the aftereffects
of surgery and other medical procedures.
And while managing pain to a tolerable
level is a reasonable goal, eliminating it
altogether is not. After all, pain is a nor-
mal part of the healing process and, in s h u
By Marianna Kritsberg, MSW, LCSW, RN