Study: More opioids prescribed during office visits than ED visits

Emergency departments represent one of the most tightly regulated healthcare spaces for opioid prescriptions. However, the bulk of these drugs are actually prescribed during outpatient visits, according to a study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

For the study, researchers examined responses to Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys administered to about 15,000 people annually from 1996 to 2012.

Over the course of the 17-year study period, the number of opioids prescribed increased by 471 percent. However, the percentage of opioids prescribed in EDs was minimal and dropped from 7.4 percent in 1996 to 4.4 percent in 2012. Over the same period, opioids prescribed during outpatient visits increased from 71 percent to 83 percent.

"[F]urther efforts to reduce the quantity of opioids prescribed may have limited effect in the ED and should focus on office-based settings," wrote the study's authors. "EDs could instead focus on developing and disseminating tools to help providers identify high-risk individuals and refer them to treatment."

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