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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