Though the rate of prescriptions for opioids has fallen over the past 7 years, more than one third of all adults in the U.S. were prescribed a narcotic pain medication in 2015. Worse, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), around 5% of the population is misusing opioids—eg, by not following directions or taking them without a prescription at all (having received them from family or friends in 41% of those cases). Around 1.9 million Americans are thought to have an opioid use disorder. Purely recreational use has been the exception more than the rule; about 64% of the survey participants who had misused opioids said they did so most recently to relieve pain. In the urgent care setting, given the high incidence of prescriptions in all settings (and of patients receiving opioids from nonclinicians), it is likely that providers see many patients who are taking opioids either appropriately or inappropriately. Still others are likely seeking prescriptions. Discussing current or recent medications remains important not just in assessing a patient’s current health, but also in identifying those who may be at risk for misusing or becoming addicted to opioids.
Opioid Prescriptions Are Down—But Still Too High, According to NIDA