Emergency room doctors are limiting opioid prescriptions and avoiding long-acting opioids, a new study suggests.
Most of the prescriptions include a low number of pills, and most are immediate-release versions of the medication, which are less likely to cause an overdose, HealthDay reports.
The findings come from a study of more than 27,000 patients seen at 19 emergency departments (EDs). About 12 percent of patients seen in a single week in October 2012 were prescribed opioid painkillers.
"Our data show that opioid prescribing in the ED is done with caution and aligned with short-term use goals," study author Dr. Scott Weiner of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said in a hospital news release.
"The median number of pills per prescription was 15, and only 1.5 percent of prescriptions were for more than 30 pills, suggesting that emergency physicians generally follow guideline recommendations to limit opioid prescriptions to only 3 to 5 days, and avoid long-acting opioids," Weiner noted.
The most common reasons doctors prescribed painkillers were back and abdominal pain (10 percent each), severe fracture (7 percent), sprain (6.5 percent) and dental/mouth pain (6.2 percent). Oxycodone and hydrocodone were the most commonly prescribed opioids, the researchers report in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.