A new study, Longer-Term Use of Opioids (2nd Edition), from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) found that there was little reduction in the prevalence of longer-term opioid use in most states studied.

In most states, the percentage of claims with opioids that received opioids on a longer-term basis changed little—within 2 percentage points between 2008/2010 and 2010/2012, according to the study.

The study found the following states with the highest incidence of longer-term opioid use:

  • Louisiana, where one-in-six injured workers with opioids were identified as having longer-term use of opioids in 2010/2012.
  • New York, Pennsylvania, and pre-reform Texas, where the numbers were one-in-eight or one-in-nine.

By contrast, fewer than one-in-20 injured workers with opioids received opioids on a longer-term basis in several Midwest states (Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin) and New Jersey.

The study is based on approximately 264,000 workers compensation claims and 1.5 million prescriptions associated with those claims from 25 states.

The claims represent injuries arising from October 1, 2007, to September 30, 2010, with prescriptions filled up to March 31, 2012. The underlying data reflect an average of 24 months of experience.

The study examined the prevalence of longer-term use of opioids in 25 states and how often the services recommended by medical treatment guidelines were used for monitoring and managing chronic opioid therapy. The recommended services include drug testing and psychological evaluations and treatment, which may help prevent opioid misuse resulting in addiction and even overdose deaths.

The study found a sizable increase across states in the use of drug testing over the study period. However, in some states, the percentage of longer-term opioid users who received these services was still low. The study also reported low use of psychological evaluations, which remained low over the study period.

“The issue this study addresses is very serious, which is how often doctors followed recommended treatment guidelines for monitoring injured workers who are longer-term users of opioids,” said Dr. Richard Victor, WCRI’s executive director, in a statement announcing the study.

“This study will help public officials, employers, and other stakeholders understand as well as balance providing appropriate care to injured workers while reducing unnecessary risks to patients and costs to employers.”

The following states are included in this study: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

About WCRI:

The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, Mass. Organized in late 1983, the Institute does not take positions on the issues it researches; rather, it provides information obtained through studies and data collection efforts, which conform to recognized scientific methods. Objectivity is further ensured through rigorous, unbiased peer review procedures.

WCRI’s membership includes employers; insurers; governmental entities; managed care companies; health care providers; insurance regulators; state labor organizations; and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Source: Workers Compensation Research Institute