Background: Receipt of opioid prescriptions in pediatric and young adult patients may be a risk factor for future opioid misuse. Data from prescription drug monitoring programs provide insight on outpatient opioid use. In our study, we analyzed the opioid dispensing rates for pediatrics and young adults in California.
Methods: A secondary analysis was performed from 2015-2019 using Controlled Utilization Review and Evaluation System data. This database provides dispensing data of controlled substances in California. Patients younger than 25 years who were prescribed opiates were analyzed by county. We further divided them into two groups (children: ≤14 years; adolescents and young adult: 15-24 years). Descriptive statistics and heat maps were used to illustrate the trends in opioid usage among different age groups.
Results: The overall percentages for the number of opioids being dispensed to patients aged <25 years have decreased over the past four years. In 2015, 6 out of 58 counties in California were considered “high-rate” with >2.9% of opioids dispensed to patients younger than 25 years old; in 2019, this number reduced to zero. Patients 25 and older received a higher proportion of opioids compared to younger populations; in 2019, 35.91% of opioids were dispensed to patients 45-64, and 8.92% to patients younger than 25.
Conclusion: Pediatric opioid prescriptions have declined over the recent years. However, a high degree of variability of prescription rates between demographic counties was noted. More studies are warranted in order to understand this discrepancy in opioid prescribing among pediatric and young adult patients.