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Michigan Sees Decrease In Opioid Addiction Among Workers Comp Beneficiaries

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According to a new study, the state of Michigan has seen the greatest decrease in prescribed opioids to workers benefiting from workers compensation over a course of six years.

The study, conducted by Dongchun Wang and others, examined trends of opioid prescriptions in workers’ compensation systems across 26 states between 2009 and 2015. The states included in the study represent two-thirds of workers’ compensation benefits paid to injured workers throughout the United States.

State and federal workers’ compensation laws covered approximately 125.8 million injured workers in 2011. This number may seem dangerous when held in relation to the popular prescription of opioids by medical practitioners who, until recently, had been unaware of the drugs’ addictive qualities.

The quiet epidemic of opioid addiction through prescription drugs has increased the risk of accidental overdose in patients. In 2015, there were 52,404 lethal overdoses in the United States, making drug overdose the leading cause of accidental death.

However, for Michigan, the risk of overdose for those hurt on the job has fortunately decreased by 37%. The Workers’ Compensation Agency’s changes to the Workers’ Compensation Health Care Services rules, according to the WCRI, is the cause for the decrease.

“The amended rules began in 2014 and prevented reimbursements for opioid treatment beyond 90 days for non-cancer related chronic pain,” reports the Upper Michigans Source, “unless detailed physician reporting requirements and other processes were met.”

The amendments were certainly well-chosen as the risk of opioid addiction increases when the drug is used over an extended period of time. Opioids work as pain-relievers by blocking the pain receptors of the brain. However, they also produce artificial endorphins, which can cause the body to reduce or altogether stop production of its own natural endorphins. This can lead to patients relying on opioids to maintain a hormone balance in their body and to keep the painful symptoms of the withdrawal period at bay.

“Opioid abuse is a major concern in our state, especially for those who are hurt on the job,” said Mark Long, Director of the WCA, to Upper Michigans Source. “The WCA is focused on keeping injured Michigan workers healthy by reducing potential addiction problems.”

However, the WCA can’t take all the credit for Michigan’s significant drop in opioid addiction. The Snyder Administration, too, had made an effort in fighting the addiction epidemic

The Michigan Automated Prescription Drug System was passed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in April and, in May, Governor Snyder himself ordered the legalization of pharmaceutical dispensary of naloxone, a drug which blocks and helps to reverse the effects of opioid addiction.

The goal of the Snyder Administration, as well as the WCA, is to reduce Michigan’s opioid epidemic further than 37%. And with the new $16.37 million grant to combat the epidemic, hopefully the Administration will be successful.

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