Jan 20, 2023 - Health

Doctors prescribe opioids at discharge less often, CDC data shows

Percentage of emergency department visits with opioids prescribed at discharge
Data: CDC; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

Doctors sent patients home with opioids after emergency department visits about 8% of the time in 2019–2020, down from about 12% in 2017–2018, according to figures released today by the CDC.

Why it matters: It continues a downward trend line from about 21.5% of emergency department discharges in 2010–2011 that resulted in an opioid prescription and a signal that efforts to educate doctors and reduce the use of opioids have gained traction.

Yes, but: Rates of opioid prescribing at discharge still vary depending on factors like a patient's source of insurance or their race, according to the data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

By the numbers: In 2019–2020, opioids were prescribed at discharge at 36.4 ED visits per 1,000 adults, down from 50.5 per 1,000 adults in 2017-2018.

  • About 9% of emergency department visits by Hispanic adults results in an opioid prescription at discharge, compared to 8.3% of non-Hispanic white adults and 7.2% of non-Hispanic Black adults.
  • Commercially-insured patients were the most likely to leave with an opioid prescription.
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