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Opioid use among disabled workers increases; DEA tightens restrictions

Lebanon, NH – Disabled workers receiving Medicare benefits are increasingly using prescription painkillers, according to a new study from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

About half of disabled Medicare beneficiaries younger than 65 fill at least one opioid prescription annually, and nearly one-quarter fill six or more, researchers found. Additionally, most Medicare beneficiaries younger than 65 are injured workers receiving Social Security Disability Insurance.

The study was published in the September issue of the journal Medical Care.

In related news, the Drug Enforcement Administration on Aug. 22 published a final rule placing tighter restrictions on hydrocodone combination products, a common opioid painkiller. Effective Oct. 6, the rule classifies HCPs (drugs with hydrocodone and other substances such as aspirin) as Schedule II substances – meaning they are accepted for medical use but have the highest potential for harm and abuse. The rule will make HCPs harder to obtain and will prohibit refills.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies drug overdoses as the leading cause of injury deaths in the United States.