Substance Abusers Most Likely to be Injured
It’s a logical assumption, but now it’s also documented. A new study has found that people who are addicted to alcohol or other drugs are more likely to sustain injuries.
The study from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation was designed to examine the injury risk among individuals clinically diagnosed with substance abuse and addiction problems. Few studies have actually looked at this issue, although it would provide useful information for employers, health care providers and risk management specialists.
Ted R. Miller and colleagues examined medical claims data from a database of 1.5 million people who had health care coverage provided by 70 large corporations. In particular, researchers analyzed three years’ worth of injury claims information for people with an alcohol-related or other drug-related diagnosis.
They found that persons addicted to both drugs and alcohol had the highest risk of injury: 58 percent. Next, were illicit-drug-only users at 49 percent, alcohol-only users at 46 percent, and those who did not abuse any drugs at 38 percent. The study also found that women over age 50 had an especially elevated risk for injury.
Each year, alcoholism and drug dependence cost businesses at least $100 billion in absenteeism, injuries, medical liability and healthcare costs. This study offers important evidence regarding the extent of the problems faced by employers who provide health insurance to these substance abusers. “There are many incentives for the employer to provide workplace drug screening. It serves as a deterrent for drug use among the working population and is designed to protect public, worker and employer interests,” says J. C., M.D., physician for OccNet, the occupational health service of the Health Alliance.”
Drug testing workers at various times, prior to job placement or randomly once hired, allows the employer to identify individuals at risk for injury to themselves and others. It also provides the perfect opportunity to remove the employee from any safety-sensitive position, prevent further injury and offer treatment options. In addition, the state provides financial incentive for a reduction of worker’s compensation rates for employers who enroll in Drug-Free Workplace program,” explains Dr. C. Investment in drug screening and treatment programs is an effective strategy to reduce these costs.
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