- Posted by Austin Swim
- On July 15, 2015
- 0 Comments
More and more emergency rooms in the United States are adopting standards geared toward helping reduce the prevalence of opioid addiction. Most recently, 75 hospital emergency departments throughout Los Angeles County are updating their standardized treatment and opioid prescribing practices, to align with American Academy of Emergency Medicine guidelines and similar guidelines adopted by the California Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians. This change in standards and practices in Los Angeles County follows a similar change in two nearby counties in California. Participating healthcare centers include public hospitals, Kaiser Permanente, Providence Health & Services, UCLA Health, Dignity Health, and Daughters of Charity Hospitals.
The new standards involve a variety of new guidelines, all meant to reduce the likelihood opioid diversion, abuse, and overdose in patients who pass through the emergency room. Such new guidelines include using opioid medications as a last resort, using them only for severe non-cancer pain, and prescribing them at the lowest possible doses. In addition, emergency department physicians are cautioned to avoid intravenous or injectable opioids in patients who are already taking chronic opioid medications. These physicians are also advised not to replace “lost” or “stolen” medications, and to prescribe only a limited days’ supply of medication. Healthcare centers as a whole are encouraged to promote one prescriber and one pharmacy for pain medication treatment, which can help to prevent patients from doctor shopping in order to obtain increased amounts of a medication.
Jeffrey D. Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, and interim health officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, made a statement regarding the new standards surrounding opioids: “We know that in Los Angeles County in 2013, there were nearly 400 lives lost due to prescription opioid overuse. Nationally, deaths from prescription opioids are greater than those from motor vehicle accidents each year, and greater than deaths from heroin, cocaine, and benzodiazepine drugs combined each year.” The statistics Gunzenhauser cites speak for themselves. The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sheds light on the opioid abuse epidemic as well; according to the survey, opioids are third—behind alcohol and marijuana—in substances for which patients are receiving treatment each year.
Even with these new standards in place, the problem still remains that the majority of users of opioids for nonmedical use are obtaining opioids from friends and family members. New opioid standards such as these will likely have some beneficial effect on the prevalence of opioid abuse throughout the nation, but only time will tell just how strong of an effect this will be.