Quantity of opiods for acute pain and limit unused medication (OPUM study)

Opioids (morphine and morphine-like substances) are often prescribed to patients to manage pain after an emergency department visit. In the past 20 years, opioid prescriptions have risen sharply, accompanied by a significant rise in opioid misuse (e.g., recreational or non-medical use, potentially leading to addiction or overdose). One explanation for this crisis is the availability and easy access of leftover opioid pills in Canadian homes, allowing family members (including children) and friends to take them for reasons other than pain relief.

Canada has no recommendations for the dosage, duration, or quantity of opioids that physicians should prescribe to manage acute pain at home. Physicians are therefore left guessing as to how much to prescribe when a patient with a condition like a fracture or renal colic is discharged from the emergency department. Our preliminary study showed that two-thirds of the pills from the initial opioid prescription to treat acute pain actually remained unused and were therefore available for potential misuse.

The investigators propose to determine how many opioid pills are consumed by patients who suffer from acute pain as they recover at home. The investigators will ask 2,580 patients (from 6 Canadian hospitals) to record their pain medication consumption in a 14-day diary. The investigators will also determine, their pain intensity level, whether or not they had new opioid prescriptions, and health services revisits. In case of missing information, patients will be contacted by phone at 2 weeks. The overall aim is to help emergency department physicians prescribe the right number of pills in order to manage patients’ pain and at the same time reduce substantially leftovers available for potential misuse.