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Opioid Use and Virginia Workers’ Compensation

Opioid overdoses are big national news these days and, sadly, Virginia is affected by this, as well.  It really has become a national epidemic. Long term use of opioids can have many negative side effects, including damage to internal organs and addiction.

Chronic Pain as a Result of a Work Injury

What about the people who need pain management?  I’m referring, specifically, to those who suffer with chronic pain as a result of catastrophic injuries sustained on the job.  I see this every day and, for those who need pain control under Virginia workers’ compensation, this certainly does have an impact on their claim.

Opioids can be very costly to the insurance company and, in a scenario where this long term use leads to addiction, who is going to cover that bill? Treatment for this type of addiction can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  It really is an issue that is not easily solved. With all of the negative there is to be said for long term opioid use, there are benefits to those who have a legitimate need for these medications.

What Does Virginia Say about Opioid Use in a Workers’ Comp Claim?

At the present moment, Virginia does not have any guidelines or policies directed at dealing with long term opioid use in workers’ compensation claims. However, the doctor (like with any other treatment in a workers’ compensation claim) does need to be able to show the insurance carrier and/or the Commission that this treatment method is reasonable, necessary, and related to the work place injuries.

The Difficulty with Prescribing Opioid Medication

Doctors’ offices are becoming more reluctant to prescribe any type of opioid medication to patients for fear of contributing to this cycle. Now, insurance companies may be questioning a doctor’s use of the prescription pad and the insurance company may not approve these medications as quickly as other types of medication leaving some injured workers in a situation where they don’t have access to a needed medication.  This means suffering withdrawal symptoms, which is horrible.

Many orthopedics and neurologists will tell them to go to their family doctor for narcotic pain medication. This causes even more problems since the family doctor does not know the details of the treatment plan. There are also a growing number of pain management doctors who will not prescribe narcotics, as well.

Needless to say, as the climate and attitudes surrounding long term use of opioids changes, I will be watching new case law and precedents set by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission very closely, as I know this will affect thousands of injured workers across the state.  If you are having any issues stemming from long term use of opioids as the result of an injury on the job, you should consult with an experienced Virginia workers’ compensation attorney to make sure you claim is appropriately monitored.

About the Author:

The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.