Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Research is Catching Up to our Experience

I see a theme among recent posts: pointing to new research that confirms things we already knew because we see them in claims every day.  This is good news.  The science is catching up to our practical experiences with opioids, addiction, and chronic pain.

The latest confirmation comes from the Cleveland Clinic.  In an article published in the Journal of Pain late last year, researchers assessed the likelihood of opioid abuse based on past history of non-opioid substance abuse.  For those of us close to complex chronic pain cases, we know that a history of, say, alcohol abuse, is correlated with opioid abuse.  But until now, we didn't have compelling data from peer reviewed literature to back our intuition.  Granted, cross-substance abuse is a well known research area... but this study focused specifically on opioids among patients with chronic, non-cancer pain.  

Among other important conclusions, here's what I thought was most important: In a pain rehab program, participants with a history of a nonopioid substance use disorder had 28 times the odds of having an addiction to prescribed medications.   

What does this mean for you?  
  1. Every injured worker, every claim, every doctor... must have an opioid risk assessment performed prior to any potentially addictive prescriptions are written.  
  2. Doctors must be educated on how to interpret the opioid risk assessment and use it to tailor treatment to the individual needs (and risks) of the injured worker.  

Failure to complete these two steps will invite tragedy.  

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