Study Finds Opioid Prescriptions Being Written to Teens and Young Adults Without Much Slowing Up

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A study published today, Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in the American Academy of Pediatrics’ journal Pediatrics titled “Trends in Opioid Prescribing for Adolescents and Young Adults in Ambulatory Care Settings” indicated that teenagers and young adults are still receiving tons of opioid prescriptions from dentists and physicians alike, despite recommendations by the United States government to cut down on opioid prescriptions.

Here’s a brief rundown of how the aforementioned study was carried out. Both male and female teenagers and young adults ranging from age 13 to 22 were studied over a 10-year period beginning in 2005 and finishing up in 2015.

Researchers, led by Joel D. Hudgins, a medical doctor who works in emergency medicine at Boston’s Children Hospital and for Harvard Medical School as an instructor of pediatrics and emergency medicine, looked extensively at data taken from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, as well as the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

Both visits to hospitals’ emergency departments and outpatient clinics designed for adolescents.

Altogether, the study took data from over 56 million visits, all of which consisted of people ranging from 13 to 22 years of age walking away from these two types of healthcare facilities with opioid prescriptions in-hand.

Emergency department visits, as you might imagine, resulted in many more opioid prescriptions than outpatient visits, with the opioid prescribing rates being 14.9 percent and 2.8 percent of visits, respectively.

Fortunately, the study found that there was, fortunately, a slight drop in the rate of opioid prescriptions to the young folks who visited emergency departments, whereas there was no change in opioid prescription rates for 13- to 22-year-olds who visited outpatient clinics.

The young people surveyed were found to be much more likely to receive opioid prescriptions when they presented dental problems. Adolescents, those aged 13 to 17, and young adults, those aged 18 to 22, received opioid prescriptions 59.7 and 57.9 percent of the time, respectively.

Next up were adolescents who presented with collarbone injuries, who received them 47 percent of the time, and fractures to adolescents’ ankles, who received opioid painkillers in take-home prescription form some 38.1 percent of the time.

According to Dr. Hudgins, the study showed that young people were nearly just as likely to take home opioid prescriptions as compared to their adult, grown-up counterparts.

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