Fighting the opioid crisis in workers’ compensation

RALEIGH — Jesse Shapiro sees first-hand the effects of the opioid epidemic.

That might seem strange since Shapiro is a lawyer who handles claims for injured workers in North Carolina. Starting May 1, new rules will go into effect that limit and control the prescription of opioids in North Carolina workers’ compensation claims.

“How do people become addicted to opioids? Many are injured at work. Doctors and pain clinics prescribe opioids for their pain,” explains Shapiro. “These drugs can be useful in controlling pain, but over-prescription can be dangerous. Opioids are so addictive that very soon the injured worker may be consumed by the urge to get more and more opioids. The worker, his or her family, employer and our whole society suffers.

“I had a client with a chronic pain disorder. It left her unable to use one of her arms,” describes Shapiro. “I was able to fight for, and win, what was considered experimental care in the USA even though it is widely accepted in Europe. After treatment, she regained full use of her arm and returned to work and her normal life.”

Shapiro believes that the promotion and acceptance of alternative care options will be of benefit.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission manages the workers’ compensation system. The Commission adopted new rules in March. The changes aim to limit opioid misuse and addiction in workers’ compensation claims. The new rules also require physicians to consider chiropractic, physical therapy, massage and acupuncture care in workers’ compensation claims.