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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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