Injured Workers May Use Illegal Drugs To Get By

William J. Kropach

Recovering from a serious workplace injury may be a long process. But for those who are accustomed to being breadwinners and active providers in their households, the road to recovery may be littered with potholes.

It is not uncommon for injured workers to cope with the pain and downtime with pain medications prescribed by their doctors. But it is unfortunately becoming increasingly common for them to use illegal drugs in tandem with their meds.

According to a recent report, about one in nine injured workers who were prescribed opioids for chronic pain management also tested positive for illicit drugs. The results stem from a survey conducted by a Baltimore based testing agency that tested 450,000 urine samples over a two-year period, and was released during a meeting of the American Pain Management Association.

Workers who received medical benefits through work comp programs tested positive for illegal drugs 8.4 percent of the time, compared to those receiving Medicaid benefits, who tested positive 16.4 percent of the time. While those testing positive amounted to a small number within the survey, it should serve notice to those who are self-medicating with other drugs that your benefits (and future employment) could be put into jeopardy.

Indeed, this analysis could change if one was legally prescribed marijuana, or if a future initiative for recreational use passes in California. Nevertheless, the use of illegal drugs in the midst of recovery could set a dangerous template for dependence.

If you have questions about the legal implications of using drugs while receiving work comp benefits, an experienced attorney can advise you.

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