prescription drugsIn terms of climate, geography, accents and politics, New York and Louisiana are very dissimilar, but they do have this in common: the amount of narcotics used by an average injured worker in each state is about double the amount of other states.

The figure comes from a new study, Interstate Variations in Use of Narcotics 2nd Edition, which examined interstate variations and trends in the use of narcotics and prescribing patterns of pain medications in the workers’ compensation system across 25 states. 

A public health problem

“The dangers of narcotic misuse resulting in death and addiction constitute a top priority public health problem in the United States and are shared by the workers’ compensation community,” said Dr. Richard Victor, executive director of the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI). “This study will give public officials, employers, worker advocates, and other stakeholders the ability to see how the use and prescribing of narcotics in their state compares to others.” 

According to the findings, the average injured worker in New York and Louisiana received over 3,600 milligrams of morphine equivalent narcotics per claim (double the number in the typical state). To illustrate, this amount is equivalent to an injured worker taking a 5-milligram Vicodin® tablet every four hours for four months continuously, or a 120-milligram morphine equivalent daily dose for an entire month. 

Michigan: From lowest to highest

Besides New York and Louisiana, the amount of narcotics per claim was also higher in Pennsylvania and Oklahoma (32–48 percent higher than the typical state). Michigan had the highest amount of narcotics per claim among the Midwest states included in this study. It is worth noting that Michigan was among the states with lower use of narcotics per claim compared with the typical state in 2008/2010. 

The study found that narcotics are frequently used in the workers’ compensation system. In 2010/2012, about 65 to 85 percent of injured workers with pain medications received narcotics for pain relief in most states. A slightly higher proportion of injured workers with pain medications in Arkansas (88 percent) and Louisiana (87 percent) received narcotics. 

1.5 million prescriptions

The study is based on approximately 264,000 workers’ compensation claims and 1.5 million prescriptions associated with those claims from 25 states. The claims represent injuries arising from October 1, 2007, to September 30, 2010, with prescriptions filled up to March 31, 2012. The underlying data reflect an average of 24 months of experience. 

The following states are included in this study: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

To purchase a copy of this study, click on the following link:

About WCRI

The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) is an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA. Organized in late 1983, the Institute does not take positions on the issues it researches; rather, it provides information obtained through studies and data collection efforts, which conform to recognized scientific methods. Objectivity is further ensured through rigorous, unbiased peer review procedures. WCRI's diverse membership includes employers; insurers; governmental entities; managed care companies; health care providers; insurance regulators; state labor organizations; and state administrative agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.