About one in 10 injured Oklahoma workers took opioid prescriptions on a long-term basis, but few were drug tested or received psychological evaluations and treatment, a report released Thursday showed.
The Workers Compensation Research Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Massachusetts, published a report Thursday that examines the prevalence of long-term use of opioids in 25 states and how often medical providers use recommended medical treatment guidelines when monitoring and managing long-term opioid therapy.
“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, the organization’s executive director, in a news release. “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 25 states included in the study represented more than 70 percent of the workers’ compensation benefits paid in the United States.
Oklahoma was one of nine states called out in the report for its high proportion of long-term opioid use, referring to people who had opioids, or narcotics, within the first three months after their injuries and had three or more visits to fill opioid prescriptions between the seventh and 12th months after their injuries.
The study found long-term opioid use was most prevalent in Louisiana, where one in six injured workers were identified as having long-term use of opioids. By contrast, fewer than one in 20 injured workers received opioids on a long-term basis in several Midwest states, including Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Opioid drugs include painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone, two of the most prescribed drugs in Oklahoma.
As the report points out, opioid misuse resulting in overdose deaths, addiction and diversion is a major public health problem in the U.S.
In the past 12 years, Oklahoma has seen the overall number of overdose deaths from prescription drugs more than double, and the number of deaths due to hydrocodone and oxycodone more than quadruple. Overdose deaths now surpass motor vehicle crashes as the leading cause of unintentional injury in the state and are the leading cause of death by injury for Oklahomans ages 25 to 64.
Thursday’s report was based off data analyzed from workers compensations claims where a worker lost more than seven days of work because of his or her injury and did not receive surgery but did fill a prescription paid for by a workers’ compensation payer.
The report showed that many medical providers are not following treatment guidelines for chronic opioid management, including drug screening testing and psychiatric evaluation.
In Oklahoma, only 25 percent of injured workers represented in the data were required to undergo urine drug testing.
Also, only 5 percent of injured Oklahoma workers had psychological evaluations, and only 3 percent had psychological treatment.
However, a high percentage of workers — 92 percent — did receive physical therapy, one type of treatment that’s part of the medical treatment guidelines recommended for long-term opioid therapy.