• By Vivien Williams

Mayo Clinic Minute: Opioids in the ED

October 25, 2017

A new study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine sheds light on where in the medical setting people are being prescribed opioids. Dr. Molly Jeffery, lead author and scientific director of the Mayo Clinic Division of Emergency Medicine Research, says many people think emergency departments (ED) tend to over prescribe opioids for people suffering from acute pain. The study found that's not true.

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Opioid pain medication can hook people into addiction quickly. Some worry that EDs are a major source for these drugs.

Dr. Jeffery says, “One thing that sort of everybody thinks they know about opioids is that, in the ED, they give opioids out like candy.”

Not true, says Dr. Jeffery. She and her colleagues published a study that found opioid prescriptions from the ED are written for a shorter duration and smaller dose than those written elsewhere. They also found that patients with acute pain who receive an opioid prescription in the ED are less likely to progress to long-term use.

“What we want to avoid is people having a large prescription and having lots of pills leftover because, at that point, it becomes a risk for their family members and other people who come to their home.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines caution against exceeding a three-day supply or 50 milligrams of morphine equivalent per day for acute pain.

“And, so, limiting prescriptions to three to seven days is a good balance.”

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