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Do Opioids Help Injured Workers Recover and Get Back to Work? The Impact of Opioid Prescriptions on Duration of Temporary Disability

Bogdan Savych, David Neumark, Randall Lea

NBER Working Paper No. 24528
Issued in April 2018, Revised in December 2018
NBER Program(s):Health Care Program, Health Economics Program, Labor Studies Program, Public Economics Program

We estimate the effect of opioid prescriptions on the duration of temporary disability benefits among workers with work-related low back injuries. We use local opioid prescribing patterns to construct an instrumental variable that generates variation in opioid prescriptions but is arguably unrelated to injury severity or other factors directly affecting disability duration. Local prescribing patterns have a strong relationship with whether injured workers receive opioid prescriptions, including longer-term prescriptions. We find that more longer-term opioid prescribing leads to considerably longer duration of temporary disability, but there is little effect of a small number of opioid prescriptions over a short period of time.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24528

Published: Bogdan Savych & David Neumark & Randall Lea, 2019. "Do Opioids Help Injured Workers Recover and Get Back to Work? The Impact of Opioid Prescriptions on Duration of Temporary Disability," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, vol 58(4), pages 549-590.

 
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