Work Injuries and Opioid Addiction: New Study Suggests a Link

If you’re ever been injured at work, you know that it can lead to a wide variety of complications, from lost wages and medical bills to awkward chats with your boss about your Workers’ Compensation rights. And according to a new study, the consequences might go far beyond bills and pain.

The Link Between Work Injuries, Drug Abuse, and Suicide

According to the study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, serious workplace injuries can lead to a greater risks of drug addiction, overdoses, and suicide. It analyzed people who suffered from “lost-time injuries,” or injuries that resulted in at least seven missed days of work. It found that injured male employees were 72% more likely to die by suicide than their non-injured counterparts. They were also 29% more likely to die from drug-related causes. Female workers fared even worse, with their chances of suicide increasing by 92%. Additionally, injured women were a staggering 193% more likely to die from an overdose than their peers.

The Role of Opioids

The culprit behind these increased risks is likely something that we’ve seen in many other aspects of American life: opioids.  A group of powerful narcotics that includes codeine, fentanyl, and oxycodone, opioids reduce pain. 17% of Americans have had at least one opioid prescription, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and they can be beneficial for helping injured people manage their initial pain.

However, drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl are highly addictive. This means that people who take an opioid can become dependent, leading them to seek out higher doses to feel its impact. This greatly increases the chances of an overdose, a very common killer in the United States. According to the CDC, 46 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Many addictions began when someone is legally prescribed opioids by their doctor after an injury or surgery. This includes many people who are injured at work, who may be seeking treatment for common workplace injuries like muscle strains, back and neck injuries, and knee injuries. If an injury is serious enough to cause someone to take time off work, it is likely also serious enough for a doctor to prescribe a strong medication to manage the pain, which is why opioid addiction and overdose death risks increase among injured workers.

Mental Struggles

As for the increased risk of suicide, the study says that depression after a workplace injury is a likely factor. After suffering from a workplace injury, injured employees face a host of difficulties, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Chronic pain
  • Lost wages and financial instability
  • Inability to enjoy previous activities or hobbies
  • Tension with family and friends over issues like medical bills
  • The stress of navigating the Workers’ Compensation systems
  • Fears of retaliation or firing

Due to issues like these, 1 out of every 10 injured workers reported experiencing depression after a workplace injury. Others might feel overwhelmed or hopeless after a workplace injury changes their life or like they are a burden to others around them, leading to an increased risk of self-harm or suicide.

Help Is Out There

As this study shows, a workplace injury can have far-reaching consequences. If you are injured at work, it is important to talk to an experience Workers’ Compensation attorney. They will be able to help you with the complex Workers’ Compensation process, allowing you to focus on your health and recovery.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or know someone who needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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