Skip to main content
eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Prescription History of Emergency Department Patients Prescribed Opioids

  • Author(s): Hoppe, Jason A
  • Houghland, John
  • Yaron, Michael
  • Heard, Kennon
  • et al.
Abstract

Introduction: To use Colorado’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) to describe the recent opioid prescription history of patients discharged from our emergency department (ED) with a prescription for opioid pain medications.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study of 300 adult ED patients who received an opioid prescription. We abstracted prescription histories for the six months prior to the ED visit from the PDMP, and abstracted clinical and demographic variables from the chart.

Results: There were 5,379 ED visits during the study month, 3,732 of which were discharged. Providers wrote 1,165 prescriptions for opioid analgesics to 1,124/3,732 (30%) of the patients. Median age was 36 years. Thirty-nine percent were male. Patients were 46% Caucasian, 26% African American, 22% Hispanic, 2% Asian and 4% other. These were similar to our overall ED population. There was substantial variability in the number of prescriptions, prescribers and total number of pills. A majority (205/296) of patients had zero or one prescription. The 90th percentile for number of prescriptions was seven, while the 10th percentile was zero. Patients in the highest decile tended to be older, with a higher proportion of Caucasians and females. Patients in the lowest decile resembled the general ED population. The most common diagnoses associated with opioid prescriptions were abdominal pain (11.5%), cold/flu symptoms (9.5%), back pain (5.4%), flank pain (5.0%) and motor vehicle crash (4.7%).

Conclusion: Substantial variability exists in the opioid prescription histories of ED patients, but a majority received zero or one prescription in the preceding six months. The top decile of patients averaged more than two prescriptions per month over the six months prior to ED visit, written by more than 6 different prescribers. There was a trend toward these patients being older, Caucasian and female. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(3):247–252.]

Main Content
Current View