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Opioid Prescribing in EDs Remains High for Teens, Young Adults

May 29, 2019

Opioid prescribing for adolescents and young adults remains high in emergency departments (EDs) and outpatient clinics, despite the high risk of opioid misuse following medical exposure in this patient population, according to results of a new study.

The authors of the study arrived at their conclusion after examining 2005-2015 data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Specifically, the researchers assessed ED and outpatient clinic visits among adolescents aged 13 to 17 years and young adults aged 18 to 22 years.

The researchers found that opioids were prescribed in approximately 57 million visits (5.7%) to EDs and outpatient clinics made by adolescents and young adults. Other notable findings include:

  • From 2005 to 2015, the rate of opioid prescribing was 14.9% for ED visits, demonstrating a small but significant decrease in prescribing (odds ratio, 0.96).
  • From 2005 to 2015, the rate of opioid prescribing in outpatient clinic visits was 2.8%. No change in prescribing was observed, the researchers noted.
  • For ED visits during this time period, rates of opioid prescribing were highest for dental disorders among adolescents (59.7%) and young adults (57.9%), clavicle fractures among adolescents (47.0%), and ankle fractures among adolescents (38.1%).

“These findings inform targeted educational campaigns aiming to ensure judicious use of opioids in this high-risk population,” the researchers concluded.

—Christina Vogt

Hudgins JD, Porter JJ, Monuteaux MC, Bourgeois FT. Trends in opioid prescribing for adolescents and young adults in ambulatory care settings [Published online May 28, 2019]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-1578.

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