Opioid prescribing at ED discharge declines, CDC data shows 

Fewer patients are leaving emergency departments with opioid prescriptions, a continuation of a trend that began a decade ago, according to CDC data brief released Jan. 19. 

In 2019 to 2020, 8 percent of patients were discharged from EDs with an opioid prescription, down from 12 percent in 2017 to 2018. 

Put another way, out of every 1,000 ED visits in 2019 to 2020, 36.4 adults were prescribed opioids. This figure is down from 2017 to 2018, when opioids were prescribed to 50.5 of every 1,000 adults, the statement said. 

The downward trend has gained speed from a high in 2010 to 2011 — when 21.5 percent of ED discharges included a prescription for opioid painkillers.

The CDC said there is a link between insurance, race and ethnicity and incidence of opioid prescriptions written at ED discharge. People with commercial insurance are more likely to obtain an opioid prescription. Both non-Hispanic white and black patients received fewer opioid prescriptions in 2019 to 2020 as compared with 2017 to 2018. 

"Opioids may be an effective treatment for chronic and acute pain when properly used," the CDC brief said. "However, receiving an opioid prescription in the emergency department has been identified as a potential risk factor for long-term use."

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