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Lonhala Magnair

Opioid Misuse and ED Visits Among Older Adults

Opioid misuse in older adults is an underappreciated and growing problem. Among patients aged 65 and older, the number of opioid-related emergency department visits doubled from 18,100 in 2010 to 36,200 visits in 2015.

  • Among patients aged 65 years and older, the rate of opioid-related hospitalizations increased more than the rate of nonopioid-related hospitalizations between 2010 and 2015.
  • Inpatient stays: A 34.3% increase in the rate of opioid-related stays, from 199.3 to 267.6 per 100,000 population, versus a 17.4% decrease in the rate of nonopioid-related stays
  • Emergency department (ED) visits: 74.2% increase in the rate of opioid-related ED visits, from 44.7 to 77.9 per 100,000 population, versus a 17.4% increase in the rate of nonopioid-related ED visits

Compared with nonopioid-related stays among patients aged 65 years and older in 2015, opioid-related stays involved:

  • Higher average inpatient costs and ED charges.
  • Elderly adults with Medicare and other public insurance coverage were more likely to fill at least one opioid prescription (24.4%) and to have four or more opioid prescription fills (11.2%) than those with Medicare only (18.8% & 7.6%) and those with Medicare and private insurance coverage (18.9% and 6.1%).
  • A higher proportion of patients discharged against medical advice.
  • A higher proportion of patients with multiple chronic conditions.
  • A higher hospitalization rate among patients residing in western states relative to other regions.

For more info, see Weiss et al. (2018). Opioid-related inpatient stays and emergency department visits among patients aged 65 years and older, 2010 and 2015. Statistical Brief #224. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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