Association Between In-Clinic Opioid Administration and Discharge Opioid Prescription in Urgent Care: a Retrospective Cohort Study



Emergency departments increasingly use nonopioid analgesics to manage acute pain and minimize opioid-related harms. Urgent care centers are expanding to lower costs and provide efficient access to healthcare. General internists increasingly work in these acute care settings. Much is known about opioid prescribing in the primary care, inpatient, and emergency department setting. Little is known about opioid prescribing in the urgent care setting and associated outcomes.


To assess the association between in-clinic opioid administration and opioid receipt at clinic discharge and on progression to chronic opioid use among urgent care patients.


Retrospective cohort study.


Patients, 20 years or older and not on opioid medications, who presented for care to an urgent care clinic within a safety-net healthcare system from June 1, 2016, to April 30, 2019.

Main Measures

We examined the association between the in-clinic administration of oral or intravenous opioids and opioid receipt at clinic discharge. We also examined the association between in-clinic opioid administration and progression to chronic opioid use after six months.

Key Results

The study sample included 34,978 patients, of which 13.8% (n = 4842) received in-clinic opioids and 86.2% (n = 30,136) did not receive in-clinic opioids. After adjusting for age, gender, race/ethnicity, insurance, and pain diagnosis, patients who received in-clinic opioids were more likely to receive opioids at discharge compared to patients who did not receive in-clinic opioids (aOR = 12.30, 95% CI 11.44–13.23). Among a selected cohort of patients, in-clinic opioid administration was associated with progression to chronic opioid use (aOR = 2.12, 95% CI 1.66–2.71).


In-clinic opioid administration was strongly associated with opioid receipt at discharge and progression to chronic opioid use. Increased use of nonopioid analgesics in urgent care could likely reduce this association and limit opioids available for diversion, overdose, and death.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Susan L. Calcaterra MD, MPH.

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Calcaterra, S.L., Lou, Y., Everhart, R.M. et al. Association Between In-Clinic Opioid Administration and Discharge Opioid Prescription in Urgent Care: a Retrospective Cohort Study. J GEN INTERN MED 36, 43–50 (2021).

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  • urgent care
  • opioids
  • acute pain