Opioid Use Low Among Injured Workers In Wisconsin

National Study Shows Use Dropping In Most States; Wisconsin Unchanged


According to a national study, people injured on the job in Wisconsin are using fewer opioids for pain than those in other states.

A review of 26 states by the Workers Compensation Research Institute showed the frequency and dosage of opioid use by injured workers decreased in the majority of states between 2009-2015.

How often and how much opioids were prescribed didn’t change in Wisconsin during that time frame but remained low in comparison to other states. However, over 6 percent of injured workers in Wisconsin got a potentially deadly mix of drugs, says study author Vennela Thumula. One factor the study examined was what prescriptions were filled within a week of obtaining opioids.

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“When taken together with benzodiazepines or other central nervous system depressants, (opioids) are likely to increase the chances of overdose death,” Thumula said.

The Wisconsin Medical Examining Board strongly discouraged prescribing the combination of drugs in guidelines issued in 2016.

The compensation claims examined in the study were all non-surgical. That’s because there’s less consensus on what is the most effective and least risky pain relief in these kinds of injuries, said Thumula. Focusing on these worker injuries also allowed analysts to see if state drug efforts are having an effect.

“It helps us see the full impact of the reforms. Because these are the injured workers where we expect there to be more change because of the opioid reforms addressing prescribing and dispensing,” Thumula said.

Wisconsin established a prescription drug monitoring program in 2013. This April a law went into effect requiring doctors to use it. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines urging doctors to “start slow and go low” in regards to the amount and duration of prescribing opioids were not in effect during the time the study was conducted.