Risk factors for opioid-related adverse drug events among older adults after hospital discharge

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2022 Jan;70(1):228-234. doi: 10.1111/jgs.17453. Epub 2021 Sep 15.


Background: Although opioids are initiated on hospital discharge in millions of older adults each year, there are no studies examining patient- and prescribing-related risk factors for opioid-related adverse drug events (ADEs) after hospital discharge among medical patients.

Methods: A retrospective cohort study of a national sample of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years and older, hospitalized for a medical reason, with at least one claim for an opioid within 2 days of hospital discharge. We excluded patients receiving hospice care and patients admitted from or discharged to a facility. We used administrative billing codes and medication claims to define potential opioid-related ADEs within 30 days of hospital discharge, and competing risks regression to identify risk factors for these events.

Results: Among 22,879 medical hospitalizations (median age 74, 36.9% female) with an opioid claim within 2 days of hospital discharge, a potential opioid-related ADE occurred in 1604 (7.0%). Independent risk factors included age of 80 years and older (HR 1.18, 95% CI 1.05-1.33); clinical conditions, including kidney disease (HR 1.22, 95% CI 1.08-1.37), dementia/delirium (HR 1.38, 95% CI 1.22-1.56), anxiety disorder (HR 1.20, 95% CI 1.06-1.36), opioid use disorder (HR 1.20, 95% CI 1.03-1.39), intestinal disorders (HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.15-1.49), pancreaticobiliary disorders (HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.09-1.61), and musculoskeletal and nervous system injuries (HR 1.35, 95% CI 1.17-1.54); red flags for opioid misuse (HR 1.37, 95% CI 1.04-1.80); opioid use in the 30 days before hospitalization (HR 1.20, 95% CI 1.08-1.34); and prescription of long-acting opioids (HR 1.34, 95% CI 1.06-1.70).

Conclusions: Potential opioid-related ADEs occurred within 30 days of hospital discharge in 7.0% of older adults discharged from a medical hospitalization with an opioid prescription. Identified risk factors can be used to inform physician decision-making, conversations with older adults about risk, and development and targeting of harm reduction strategies.

Keywords: adverse drug events; hospitalization; opioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid