Emergency Department Contribution to the Prescription Opioid Epidemic

From 1996 to 2012 the total quantity of opioids (measured by total milligrams of morphine equivalents) prescribed for non-cancer patients increased by 471 percent according to a recently published study. Though emergency departments have been the target of policy proposals, the researchers found the share of prescription opioids from the ED was modest and declined through the study period, from 7.4 percent in 1996 to 4.4 percent in 2012. In comparison, the proportion of opioids from office-based prescriptions was high and increased, from 71 percent of the total to 83 percent.These results suggest policies and programs to reduce the quantity of opioids prescribed may have a greater impact in office-based settings. Instead the authors suggest EDs “could focus on developing and disseminating tools to help providers identify high-risk individuals and refer them to treatment.”

The full study is available at Annals of Emergency Medicine. The press release on this study is available here

Citation: Axeen, S., Seabury, S. A., & Menchine, M. (2018). Emergency department contribution to the prescription opioid epidemic. Annals of emergency medicine71(6), 659-667.