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How prescription drug use affects workers' compensation

There is an increasing problem for workers and their employers in New York, and that is the use and abuse of prescription drugs. Their use has led not only to decreased productivity and missed days, but it has significantly increased the amount of workers' compensation claims.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, overuse of prescription drugs can result in a number of work-related problems. These include:

  • Fatigue on the job
  • Decreased concentration
  • Increase in accidents and injuries
  • Low productivity and efficiency
  • Poor decision making
  • Increase in fatal accidents
  • Difficulty with colleagues and management
  • Missed days 

While all prescription medication comes with side effects, there is one type of drug that has become a real issue in the workplace. National Public Radio discusses the increase in opioid abuse and how it affects safety on the job. The abuse of opioid medication costs employers billions of dollars in workers' comp claims, and ironically opioids have often been prescribed for injuries related to these same claims. 

Employees who take opioid painkillers may be able to hide their effects during the initial stages of treatment. However, as the workers become more addicted, the signs become more apparent to their employers. Signs of addiction include:

  • Increased tardiness
  • More sick days
  • Decreased productivity
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Slower brain function

Symptoms such as slower reaction times can lead to dangerous situations, especially in industries or positions in which safety is of utmost concern. While employers are getting better at recognizing the signs of painkiller abuse, there are still some careers, especially those with higher professional stature, in which employees are able to hide their addictions for longer periods of time. 



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