Most Patients Seen in Emergency Department for Pain Consume Few Opioids After Discharge

However, consumption varies significantly by condition
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Medically Reviewed By :
Meeta Shah, M.D.

THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Opioid prescriptions following emergency department discharge should be adapted to specific acute pain conditions, according to a study presented at the annual European Emergency Medicine Congress, held from Sept. 17 to 20 in Barcelona, Spain.

Raoul Daoust, M.D., from the University of Montreal, and colleagues sought to determine the optimal quantity of opioids to prescribe to emergency department discharge patients with acute pain. The analysis included 2,240 participants who completed a pain medication diary that included real-time recording of quantity, doses, and names of all pain medications consumed.

The researchers found that the quantity of opioids consumed over 14 days was low (median, five tablets) and resulted in a proportion of unused opioid tablets of 62.9 percent. Quantities were statistically different across pain conditions. For instance, in order to adequately supply 80 percent of patients for two weeks, participants suffering from renal colic or abdominal pain (eight morphine 5 mg or equivalent opioid tablets) required significantly fewer opioids versus patients suffering from fractures (24 tablets), back pain (21 tablets), neck pain (17 tablets), or other musculoskeletal pains (16 tablets). On the first day after emergency department discharge, two-thirds of patients consumed opioids, which gradually decreased to 12 percent at the end of follow-up.

"With this research, I wanted to provide a tailored approach to prescribing opioids so that patients have enough to manage their pain but almost no unused tablets available for misuse," Daoust said in a statement.

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