Growing Popularity of Street Drugs Influences Workers’ Compensation

Drugs Introduced into Treatment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that out of every 100 people, opioid prescriptions have dropped from 81.3 in the year 2012 to 58.7 in 2017.1 Street drugs are due for some credit for this change, as they have grown in popularity. There has been an upward trend in the decriminalization and legalization of street drugs such as cannabis in many states, yet this may only be the tip of the iceberg. In addition to medical marijuana, psychedelic drugs, or hallucinogens, are being touted as legitimate ways to treat pain and conditions such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and end-of-life care.2 Drugs such as ketamine, magic mushrooms (psilocybin), ecstasy, and even ibogaine have all had their day in state legislatures as state lawmakers have tried to make them more accessible to the public.3 These drugs are known to stimulate sensory input and “alter perception, mood, and cognitive processes.”4

Reducing Reliance on Opioids

This may come as good news to many people. A similar statistic from the one mentioned at the top found that injured workers have seen a drop in the prescription of opioids from 30.5% of injured workers in 2009 to 18% in 2007.5 Opioids have a somewhat controversial label. In 2018 alone, 15,000 people died due to prescription opioids.6 Substance abuse is a national issue and can be due in part to the addictive nature of a drug. State lawmakers in New York, Virginia, and Washington are pushing reforms to decriminalize all drugs.7 The array of options of therapeutic treatment injured workers could use may soon reduce numbers of opioid use even further.

Ketamine

Ketamine, a club drug, also known as “Special K”, is used to treat depression, as well as pain, which often overlap in and outside of workers’ comp cases. FDA-approved and available now via “nasal spray, lozenge, and pill form”, it is already approved by most major health insurance carriers.8 Cliff Goldstein, in his article on ketamine, mentions how the introduction of ketamine into workers’ compensation-covered medical treatment could be a good thing if it accomplishes multiple things. These include achieving substantial reliability in reducing pain, reducing reliance on opioids, “decreasing duration or percentage of disability or impairment”, and decreasing the demand for surgical procedures and “post-surgical medical intervention”, which is sometimes required due to side-effects from surgery.9

Magic Mushrooms

Mental health treatment with regards to magic mushrooms is gaining traction. Magic mushrooms, or psilocybin, its main psychoactive ingredient, has state lawmakers in Connecticut and Florida looking for studies into the drug as well as setting up a platform for therapeutic use. People would be able to access it in a controlled environment at licensed facilities through therapeutic sessions. Florida State Rep. Michael Grieco touted magic mushrooms as infallible for those who are reluctant to take traditional forms of medicine, such as veterans.10 Mr. Grieco’s comment may also apply to other drugs not currently in mainstream therapeutic use, as patients look for innovative ways to treat mental health conditions.

Ecstasy and Ibogaine

Ecstasy, or MDMA, also a party drug, is also gaining visibility as a therapeutic option. In a “Phase 2” trial, two doses of ecstasy were administered to first responders and those with PTSD. It was found to adequately reduce symptoms.11 Early trials have been consistent in using psychotherapy as a supplement to administer the drug and have shown promise.12 The Food and Drug Administration provided “breakthrough therapy status” towards the drug a few years back and it could soon be used on the market legally.13

State lawmakers in Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont have put forward legislation to support pilot studies of ibogaine, a Schedule l Controlled substance. It is currently illegal in the U.S., yet it has found success in John Hopkins N.Y.U among patients “suffering from depression, and other mood disorders, PTSD, and smoking or opioid addiction.14

Consult a Medical Professional

The possible introduction of these and further drugs into the market will undoubtedly influence workers’ compensation and require insurance carriers to pay for these treatments.15 Although supporters of these drugs have found success in alleviating symptoms of mental illness, there may be side effects from the drugs themselves that may cause other concerns. Please consult a medical professional if you think you can benefit from these and other treatments.

1 Demberger, Autumn. “Workers’ Comp Regulations: The Trends, Updates and Predictions We Need to Know for 2020.” Risk & Insurance, Risk & Insurance, 7 Nov. 2019, riskandinsurance.com/workers-comp-regulations-we-need-to-know-for-2020/.

2 Stone, Emma, and Pat Goggins. “What Are Psychedelics?” Leafly, Leafly Holdings, Inc., 9 Oct. 2020, www.leafly.com/news/health/what-are-psychedelics.

3 Demberger, Autumn. “Workers’ Comp Regulations: The Trends, Updates and Predictions We Need to Know for 2020.” Risk & Insurance, Risk & Insurance, 7 Nov. 2019, riskandinsurance.com/workers-comp-regulations-we-need-to-know-for-2020/.

4 Stone, Emma, and Pat Goggins. “What Are Psychedelics?” Leafly, Leafly Holdings, Inc., 9 Oct. 2020, www.leafly.com/news/health/what-are-psychedelics.

5 Demberger, Autumn. “Workers’ Comp Regulations: The Trends, Updates and Predictions We Need to Know for 2020.” Risk & Insurance, Risk & Insurance, 7 Nov. 2019, riskandinsurance.com/workers-comp-regulations-we-need-to-know-for-2020/.

6 Anonymous. “Data Overview: The Drug Overdose Epidemic: Behind the Numbers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department for Health and Human Services, 7 Dec. 2020, www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/index.html.

7 Jaeger, Kyle. “Psychedelic Mushroom Bills Filed In Florida And Connecticut As Movement Expands To Multiple States.” Marijuana Moment, Marijuana Moment LLC., 29 Jan. 2021, www.marijuanamoment.net/psychedelic-mushroom-bills-filed-in-florida-and-connecticut-as-movement-expands-to-multiple-states/.

8 Goldstein, Cliff. “Viewpoint: Psychedelic Drugs to Treat Pain in Workers’ Compensation Cases?” Claims Journal, Wells Media Group, Inc., 19 Mar. 2021, www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2021/03/19/302655.htm.

9 Ibid.

10 Jaeger, Kyle. “Psychedelic Mushroom Bills Filed In Florida And Connecticut As Movement Expands To Multiple States.” Marijuana Moment, Marijuana Moment LLC., 29 Jan. 2021, www.marijuanamoment.net/psychedelic-mushroom-bills-filed-in-florida-and-connecticut-as-movement-expands-to-multiple-states/.

11 Kuehner-Hebert, Katie. “Ecstasy as PTSD Treatment: Will You Be Footing the Bill?” Risk & Insurance, Risk & Insurance, 22 May 2018, riskandinsurance.com/ecstasy-for-workers-with-ptsd-will-you-be-footing-the-bill/.

12 Stone, Will. “MDMA, Or Ecstasy, Shows Promise As A PTSD Treatment.” NPR, NPR, 14 Aug. 2019, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/08/14/746614170/mdma-aka-ecstasy-shows-promise-as-a-ptsd-treatment.

13 Kuehner-Hebert, Katie. “Ecstasy as PTSD Treatment: Will You Be Footing the Bill?” Risk & Insurance, Risk & Insurance, 22 May 2018, riskandinsurance.com/ecstasy-for-workers-with-ptsd-will-you-be-footing-the-bill/.

14 Coventry. “First Script Prescription Benefit News for Workers’ Compensation.” Sept. 2018.

15 Goldstein, Cliff. “Viewpoint: Psychedelic Drugs to Treat Pain in Workers’ Compensation Cases?” Claims Journal, Wells Media Group, Inc., 19 Mar. 2021, www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2021/03/19/302655.htm.

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