Rate of patients at elevated risk of opioid overdose visiting the emergency department

Published:March 22, 2018DOI:



      To determine the rate of patients visiting the emergency department who are at risk of opioid overdose.


      The electronic records of a 412 bed tertiary care county teaching hospital were searched for emergency department (ED) visits from January 1, 2013 to October 31, 2016 to find patients on at least 100 mg morphine equivalents (MME) of oral opioid therapy, or an opioid in combination with a benzodiazepine. Records were also searched for patients with a positive urinalysis for opioids when no opioid was present on their home medication list. Medication reconciliations were searched for patients at risk of opioid overdose who were subsequently discharged on naloxone.


      An analysis of 2521 patients visiting the ED was performed, and the overall rate of risk of opioid overdose increased from 25.84% to 47.41% (p < 0.0001) in patients meeting inclusion criteria from 2013 to 2016. For patients on opioids, the rate of patients on 100 MME daily or greater increased from 9.72% to 28.24% (p < 0.0001) from 2013 to 2016. The rate of patients on opioid therapy in combination with benzodiazepine therapy did not change significantly from 2013 to 2016. When comparing patients at risk of opioid overdose to total emergency department visits, we found the rate of at risk patients increased significantly from 0.12% to 0.56% (p < 0.0001) from 2013 to 2016.


      The rate of patients visiting the emergency department at risk of opioid overdose increased significantly from 2013 to 2016. Naloxone was not routinely prescribed to this patient cohort.


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