People who receive opioids for the first time while hospitalized have double the risk of continuing to receive opioids for months after discharge compared with their hospitalized peers who are not given opioids, according to research led by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
The findings, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, are among the first to shed light on the little-studied causes and consequences of inpatient opioid prescribing.
“I was surprised by the level of opioid prescribing to patients without a history of opioid use,” said lead author Dr. Julie Donohue, professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “About half of the people admitted to the hospital for a wide variety of medical conditions were given opioids. The stability of this prescribing also was surprising. Nationally and regionally, as people have become more aware of how addictive opioids can be, we’ve seen declines in outpatient opioid prescribing. But we didn’t see that in inpatient prescribing.”
Dr. Donohue and her colleagues reviewed the electronic health records of 191,249 hospital admissions of patients who had not been prescribed opioids in the prior year and were admitted to a community or academic hospital in Pennsylvania between 2010 and 2014.
Opioids were prescribed in 48 percent of the admissions, with those patients being given opioids for a little more than two-thirds of their hospital stay, on average.
Almost 6 percent of patients receiving opioids during their hospital stay were still being prescribed opioids three months later, compared with 3 percent of those without inpatient opioid use.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on June 21