Opioid prescriptions from the emergency department (ED) are written for a shorter duration and smaller dose than those written elsewhere, shows new research led by Mayo Clinic. The study, published today in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, also demonstrates that patients who receive an opioid prescription in the ED are less likely to progress to long-term use.
This challenges common perceptions about the ED as the main source of opioid prescriptions, researchers say.
“There are a few things that many people assume about opioids, and one is that, in the ED, they give them out like candy,” says lead author Molly Jeffery, Ph.D., a researcher in the Mayo Clinic Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. “This idea didn't really fit with the clinical experience of the ED physicians at Mayo Clinic, but there wasn't much information out there to know what's going on nationally.”
To study 5.2 million opioid prescriptions written for acute – or new-onset – pain across the U.S. between 2009 and 2015, the researchers used the OptumLabs Data Warehouse, a database of de-identified, linked clinical and administrative claims information. None of the patients in the study had received an opioid prescription for the previous six months. This made it easier to compare doses by eliminating patients who built up a tolerance to the drugs.