Trends in Opioid Use over Time: 1997 to 1999

Susan W. Tolle, Susan E. Hickman, Virginia P. Tilden, Joseph S. Bubalo, Erik K. Fromme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Substantial resources have been spent to improve pain control for dying patients, and increased opioid administration has been presumed. Oregon has been a consistent leading state in per capita use for morphine for the past 10 years, as recorded by the Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS). Health policy experts, extrapolating from World Health Organization methods, have suggested these data are indicative of the quality of end-of-life care in Oregon. To determine whether trends in opioid prescription at the state and national levels reflect increased opioid use for inpatients during the final week of life, chart reviews were conducted to record all opioid medications administered in the last week of life to 877 adult inpatients who died from natural causes between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 1999. Inpatient morphine use did not increase significantly for dying patients from 1997 to 1999. However, overall morphine use for both Oregon and the United States as measured by ARCOS data increased significantly. Comparisons revealed no significant difference between linear trends for Oregon and U.S. morphine use, but both were significantly greater than the dying inpatients. This pattern was also found for all other opioids. These findings suggest that ARCOS data do not necessarily provide information about opioid use for specific subpopulations of patients and raise questions about the meaning of observed increases in ARCOS data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of palliative medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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