“The 2019 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that the chances of being prescribed opioids for a minor injury like an ankle sprain – or routine wisdom teeth extraction – varies widely depending on the state in which a person lives.
Researchers say that patients seeking medical care were on average three times more likely to be given opioids in ‘high-prescribing states’ like Georgia and Nebraska than in ‘low-prescribing states’ like Michigan.
The variation increased to 10 times more likely between Arkansas, where the most amount of patients were given opioids, and North Dakota, where the least amount were.
Additionally, patients who were given a 30-day-long prescription as opposed to a 10-day-long treatment were five times more likely to fill additional opioid prescriptions.
For the study, the team looked at private insurance claims from more than 30,800 US patients who went to the emergency room for an ankle sprain between 2011 and 2015.
They found that 25 percent of them were prescribed opioid pain medication, including drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.
But the most surprising factor was the difference in how likely the patients were to be given a prescription between the states.
Although the average was three times more likely in high-prescribing states than in low-prescribing states, there were some cases where the variation was even greater.
While less than three percent of patients were given an opioid prescription in North Dakota, 40 percent were in Arkansas – making patients in the southern state 10 times more likely to receive the medication to treat their sprained ankles.
The researchers say that although the samples sizes in the states may vary, it’s clear that patients are unnecessarily being prescribed these drugs.
‘This is an indication that a lot of people are getting opioid prescriptions and there’s a lot of variation we couldn’t account for,’ lead author Dr M Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at Penn, told Daily Mail Online.
‘The study shows there’s room for improvement in terms of who we prescribe opioids to, especially for people whom have never been exposed before.'”