There is no question that there is an opioid epidemic raging throughout the country. There is also no denying that millions of workers are injured on the job every year. When those workplace injuries occur, sometimes opioids are prescribed for the pain. However, a new study published by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute shows that whether or not a person is prescribed opioids may depend on where they live.
Throughout the study, researchers used the Urban-Rural Continuum to determine if an area was considered urban or rural. After matching that criteria, they then found that injured workers in rural areas were typically given at least one opioid prescription for their injuries. In fact, in rural areas, two-thirds of workers hurt on the job held an opioid prescription at some point. Compare that with urban areas, where only one-third of injured workers received an opioid prescription, and it is clear that the difference is quite large.
“It is difficult to understand why rural communities are receiving so many more opioid prescriptions,” says Robert Whitley of Whitley Law Firm. “It does not seem fair though, to put individuals in these communities at increased risk for addiction, especially knowing what we know about opioids. The hope is that patients are advocates for themselves and that they do their best not to become addicted to these medications.”
So far, those in rural areas seem to be stopping addiction before it starts, even if they are prescribed the drug more regularly than those in urban areas. Only ten percent of injured workers in rural workers were likely to continue taking the drug. Compare that with the nine percent of injured workers in urban areas that remain on it for an extended period of time, and that difference is quite small.
In addition to the high number of injured workers being offered opioids in rural areas, the study also found that those that worked for smaller companies were also more likely to receive opioids. Fifty-four percent of injured workers that work for small companies were given at least one opioid prescription, while only 47 percent of injured workers that worked for larger companies were given a prescription.