Emergency Department Visits and Overnight Hospital Stays among Persons Aged 50 and Older Who Use and Misuse Opioids [2018]

Opioid misuse and adverse health outcomes are serious problems among the 50+ age group. Using data from the 2015–2016 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (N = 17,608 respondents aged 50+), we examined emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations among those who reported (1) no opioid use in the past year (61.4%); (2) opioid use but no misuse (36.0%); and (3) opioid misuse (2.6%). Compared to nonusers, those who reported use but no misuse or misuse had greater odds of any ED visit (AOR = 2.24, 95% CI = 2.05–2.47 and AOR = 1.99, 95% CI = 1.55–2.56, respectively) and hospitalization (AOR = 2.87, 95% CI = 2.48–3.32 and AOR = 2.57, 95% CI = 1.88–3.51, respectively); however, only those who used but did not misuse had more ED visits and longer hospital stays than nonusers. Those who misused opioids were younger, but they did not differ from those who used but did not misuse on ED visits and hospitalizations. Since those who misused had significantly higher rates of other substance use disorders and mental health problems than those who used but did not misuse, treatment of opioid misuse should also include help for these problems. Economically disadvantaged older adults suffering from chronic pain and opioid misuse also need assistance accessing effective pain treatment.

Bryan Y. Choi , M.D., M.P.H., Diana M. DiNitto , Ph.D., C. Nathan Marti , Ph.D. & Namkee G. Choi , Ph.D.
Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Volume 51, 2019 – Issue 1