Opioid Prescribing Relatively High for Sprained Ankles

Opioid Prescribing Relatively High for Sprained Ankles

A quarter of patients who went to the hospital for a sprained ankle ended up leaving with a prescription for an opioid, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania examined private insurance claims for 31,000 patients 18 and over who had sprained their ankle. Of that number, 25.1% were given a prescription for an opioid, according to results published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Those who received an opioid prescription hadn’t had one filled at least 6 months prior to going to the hospital and weren’t dependent on them.

The average prescription was for a low dose and was for 15 pills, an amount expected to last for 3 days.

The researchers also found that some of the patients received oxycodone, which is also known by the brand names OxyContin and Percocet, and considered a mid-strength opioid with a high potential for abuse, according to the DEA. About 5% of these patients continued on to long-term opioid use, compared to 1% of those who received a low-dose opioid prescription and 0.5% for those who weren’t prescribed an opioid.

The study does note that overall opioid prescriptions declined between 2011 and 2015, the years the study period covered. In 2016, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) implemented new guidelines aimed at curbing the number of opioid prescriptions.

A paper published in JAMA in November found that over-the-counter painkillers were as effective as opioid meds in treating most types of injuries.


Sarah Rosenthal

Sarah Rosenthal

Sarah Rosenthal is an intern at MedShadow. She is majoring in Biology and Society in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University with a concentration in food, health, and sustainability, and minoring in Viticulture and Enology.


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