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But there’s not much actual evidence tying doctors’ prescription patterns with individual patients’ long-term use of opioids or complications caused by the drugs later on.

In a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers tried to tease that link out. And they found doctors’ prescribing habits — whether they give out opioids at a higher rate versus a lower rate — matter a lot.

For the study, the researchers from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health looked at 375,000 Medicare patients who turned up in an emergency department for common reasons — such as falls, chest pain, ankle sprain, or back pain — and hadn’t used opioids in the six months before their hospital stay.

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Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by .v1ctor Casale

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