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Whether you become a long-term opioid user may depend on which ER doctor you see

Luck may play a role in determining who ends up taking prescription opioids long-term, according to a study released Wednesday that found a link between the prescribing habits of hospital emergency room doctors and extended use of narcotic painkillers.

Luck may play a role in determining who ends up taking prescription opioids long-term, according to a study released Wednesday that found a link between the prescribing habits of hospital emergency room doctors and extended use of narcotic painkillers.

People seen by an emergency room physician who tends to prescribe opioids frequently are about 30 percent more likely to take them for at least six more months over the ensuing year, according to the study by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study also found a remarkable difference in opioid prescribing habits by doctors in the very same emergency rooms: "High-intensity prescribers" doled out narcotics during 24.1 percent of patient visits, on average, while "low-intensity prescribers" called for them only 7.3 percent of the time. In addition, patients who received a large dose of opioids at their initial visit were more likely to end up as long-term users.

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