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Research Letter
July 1, 2019

Prescription Patterns of Family Members After Discontinued Opioid or Benzodiazepine Therapy of Users

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 5National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. 2019;179(9):1290-1292. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.1047

The epidemic of opioid use disorder has led to increased scrutiny of patients prescribed large amounts of controlled substances, such as opioids and benzodiazepines. States and payers, such as commercial insurers and Medicaid programs, are imposing stricter limits on prescribing opioids1 raising concerns that these policies may pressure physicians to discontinue opioid therapy.2,3 Because of the physical dependence inherent with long-term opioid or benzodiazepine use, individuals whose therapy is discontinued may resort to extreme measures to avoid withdrawal symptoms.4 The objective of this study was to examine the prescription patterns of family members of high-volume opioid or benzodiazepine users whose therapy is stopped. We hypothesized that when clinicians discontinue therapy for high-volume users, their family members may be more likely to obtain prescriptions for these medications to potentially divert those prescriptions to the high-volume user.

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