Posts Tagged "Back pain"

medication

Opioid Use Higher for Disability Applicants

With the nation still in the midst of an opioid crisis, a new study provides the first estimate of opioid use among people who apply for disability.

One out of every four applicants used opioids in 2017 – below the peak in 2012 but still significantly more than in the general population, according to researchers at Mathematica and the U.S. Social Security Administration.

And the researchers may be underestimating the extent of opioid use. Their data come from Social Security’s disability application forms. The forms ask applicants to list their prescriptions, including opioids taken for musculoskeletal pain such as a bad back, as well as their non-prescription drug use, and the stigma around use and abuse may encourage underreporting.

To estimate opioid use required creating a database because none existed. The researchers mined the text fields in each disability application using machine learning to find information about opioid use and then entered the information into the database.

Some interesting demographic trends emerged from the study. Opioid use is most prevalent in middle age, at around 30 percent of disability applicants in their 40s and 50s. “This is notable,” the researchers said, because if Social Security grants their requests for benefits, they “may remain on the [disability rolls] for 25 years.”

In a breakdown by education levels, the biggest opioid users had attended college but didn’t get a degree. Women’s use exceeded men’s throughout the study’s 10-year period, mirroring the population as a whole. And a state-by-state breakdown shows that applicants’ opioid use fell across the nation during that time. But Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, and Nevada still had particularly high rates in 2017. …Learn More

Same Disability. Some Have Tougher Jobs

People lifting a heavy box

Workers at construction sites or in warehouses can feel their bodies breaking down over time. This could be the natural aging process, or it could have to do with their overly strenuous jobs.

It’s not easy to tease apart the effects of each. But consider two groups of workers with back and spine stiffness or deformities employed in a variety of occupations. One group has had the back problems since they were children or teenagers, while the other group’s disability began as adults.

Given that they all have a similar disability, it might seem that both groups would also have similar physical demands at work. But that isn’t the case.

A recent study found that the workers who developed back problems as adults were required to lift and carry more weight as part of their jobs. The maximum weight they were required to lift was 26.5 pounds on average. That was a lot more – six pounds more – than the maximum weight handled by the people who already had back problems when they started working.

The significance of workers with late-onset conditions having more taxing jobs is that their jobs “may have caused their health conditions,” the researchers said.

It’s important to add some perspective to this finding, however. A separate analysis in the study comparing workers with and without a disability showed that many people with disabilities have jobs that accommodate them.

But the disparity in working conditions within the disabled population is still a concern. Another example involves people with emotional and cognitive disorders. Ideally, they cope better if they can work at a reasonable pace. But the researchers found that a larger share of workers – three out of four on average – who developed these disorders as adults were in jobs requiring them to work quickly. That compares with just two-thirds of people with early-onset conditions.

We know aging causes physical infirmities. But the physical demands of work also seem to play a role.
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