Opioid Prescriptions in the Emergency Room Rising

(HealthDay News) — Prescriptions for opioid analgesics in the emergency department have risen dramatically over the last decade, according to a study published in the March issue of Academic Emergency Medicine.

Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi, PharmD, MD, from the George Washington University in Washington, DC, and colleagues utilized data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (2001–2010) to describe trends in analgesia prescribing. Trends in the use of six commonly prescribed opioid and nonopioid analgesics were explored at emergency department visits for adult patients (≥18 years of age) during which an analgesic was prescribed.

The researchers found that from 2001–2010 there was an increase in the percentage of overall emergency department visits (pain-related and nonpain-related) where any opioid analgesic was prescribed, from 20.8 to 31.0 percent, a relative increase of 49.0%. Significant increases were observed for prescriptions for hydrocodone, hydromorphone, morphine, and oxycodone, while use of codeine and meperidine declined. Nonopioid analgesic prescribing was unchanged over the study period (from 26.2 to 27.3%). From 2001–2010 there was an increase in the percentage of visits for painful conditions, from 47.1 to 51.1%, an absolute increase of 4.0%.

“There has been a dramatic increase in prescribing of opioid analgesics in U.S. emergency departments in the past decade, coupled with a modest increase in pain-related complaints,” the authors write.

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