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The present study investigated the impact of narcotic administration on quantity and frequency of recidivism by patients presenting to the Emergency Department (ED) with a primary complaint of chronic pain. This study explored the relationship between narcotic administration, gender, prescribing physician and subsequent ED visits. We analyzed the data from the twelve months of medical records for 80 patients (278 visits) who presented at the ED of a general medical center in a rural area. Results indicated that the number of visits by those who received narcotics was significantly higher than for those who did not receive narcotics. There was also a significant difference in prescribing patterns, with females being more likely than males to receive a narcotic. Observable differences were found between the frequency of days between visits for those who received narcotics vs. those who did not, and the differential pattern of narcotic administration between providers. These findings raise the question that the receipt of a narcotic may reinforce visits to the ED. This study concluded that an established protocol for treating patients with chronic pain who present in the ED may be useful.


Originally published in the Journal of Pain Management, 4(4), 132-149.

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