Social Contagion

Familial roots of an opioid epidemic

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Science  23 Aug 2019:
Vol. 365, Issue 6455, pp. 770-771
DOI: 10.1126/science.365.6455.770-d

The likelihood that a patient will use prescription opioids (POs) is influenced by the particular doctor to whom that patient is essentially randomly assigned during an emergency room (ER) visit. Additionally, people from households in which someone else has already used POs after an ER visit are themselves more likely to use POs. Using data on hundreds of millions of medical claims covering virtually every resident of Massachusetts between 2010 and 2015 (including about 14 million opioid prescriptions), de Vaan and Stuart show that this intrahousehold contagion, which seems to be driven by people being more likely to request opioids for pain, is particularly pronounced in poorer households.

Am. Sociol. Rev. 84, 577 (2019).

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