HealthDay News — More than half of hospitalized, nonsurgical patients are exposed to opioids, study findings indicate.

Among 1.14 million adult nonsurgical admissions to 286 U.S. hospitals the average opioid prescribing rate was 51%, with rates ranging from 5% in the lowest prescribing hospital to 72% in the highest prescribing hospital, Shoshana J. Herzig, MD, MPH, from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and colleagues reported in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

They used the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes to identify opioid exposure and severe opioid-related adverse events during hospitalization.

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Severe opioid-related adverse events increased with hospital prescribing rates (relative risk, 1.23 for highest- versus lowest-prescribing quartile), the researchers found. 

The mean ± standard deviation daily dose received in oral morphine equivalents was 68 ± 185 mg, with 23% of admissions receiving a total daily dose of 100 mg oral morphine equivalents or greater.

“Interventions to standardize and enhance the safety of opioid prescribing in hospitalized patients should be investigated,” the authors conclude.


  1. Herzig SJ et al. J Hosp Med. 2013; doi: 10.1002/jhm.2102.