Inside the opioid epidemic

After a serious workplace injury, doctors often prescribe opioids. These are high-caliber painkillers that you can only get with a prescription. They do work very well, and the amount of legal use is widespread.

Unfortunately, these painkillers are incredibly addictive. Many people begin to abuse them or use them illegally as the result of an injury and a valid prescription. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls this an epidemic. You cannot overstate the seriousness of the situation.

Looking at the numbers

To really understand the issue and the other connected drug problems, take a look at some of the key numbers from the HHS:

  • Every day, an average of 116 people pass away from overdoses of opioids.
  • Opioids often act as a gateway to other drugs. For instance, around 80 percent of those who use heroin said that they started off with prescription opioids.

Similarly, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the following numbers:

  • All told, the opioid crisis runs up a bill of about $78.5 billion annually.
  • Between 21 and 29 percent of people who get a valid prescription for these powerful painkillers wind up using them improperly.
  • Around 8 to 12 percent of these individuals then end up with a use disorder.
  • The overdoses continue to climb. For instance, from July of 2016 to September of 2017, the amount of overdoses in most states went up by about 30 percent. That's stunning in such a short time.
  • This is especially pronounced in the Midwest, where the overdoses went up by a staggering 70 percent in the same time.
  • Many of these overdoses -- 54 percent, in a survey of 16 different states -- happen in big cities. However, that means a significant amount happen in rural areas, as well.

These increases have led many to consider this a public health crisis that has to get addressed. It is clear that the problem has only gotten worse, and much of it is due to addiction. People get caught up in it as it spirals out of control.

Many times, the HHS notes that people do not realize that they can get addicted to medications that they get from a doctor. They assume that all use is safe. However, the side-effects are serious. Even when you get the opioids legally, with a prescription, you could find yourself facing issues with addiction and misuse in the future. It happens to many people who never expected it.

After an injury

This does not mean you cannot use opioids after a workplace injury. You just need to know the risks and understand how to use them safely. At the same time, make sure you fully understand all of your workers' compensation rights in Minnesota.

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