New Mayo Clinic research has found that that emergency departments are doing a good job of appropriately prescribing opioids.
Investigators scrutinized more than five million opioid prescriptions dispensed between 2009 and 2015 across the U.S. They found emergency department patients were 44 percent less likely to be prescribed opioids for more than three days than patients elsewhere.
Mayo researcher Molly Jeffrey said the study contradicts assumptions that emergency departments hand out pain killers like candy.
"They're doing something right in the emergency department," Jeffrey said.
The research suggests emergency physicians have gotten the message that prescribing short-course, low-dose opioids is an important way to keep patients safe, she added.
Jeffery said other sectors of health care could learn from the best practices that emergency departments follow to reduce opioid addiction. She said elsewhere there was a large amount of variability in terms of the amount of opioids patients were given for pain, depending on where they were being treated. She said that's concerning.
"When we see variability on such a large scale, we should worry that some people are not getting the best, most appropriate treatment," Jeffrey said.
The research is published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.