Emergency Rooms Crack Down on Opioid Abusers

June 03, 2015|4:17 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Emergency rooms across the country are cracking down on patients who show up several times a month requesting pain pills. In almost every state physicians participate in a prescription drug monitoring program, therefore the more anonymous emergency room has become a top destination for patients seeking prescription pain pills like Vicodin, Oxycodone, or Percocet.

To prevent patients from abusing opioids, hospitals in New Mexico, Texas and Wyoming have developed tracking systems specifically tailored to the emergency room. The emergency room at the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center (CRMC) in Wyoming recently implemented a protocol to reduce the abuse of prescription pain medications and ensure that patients requiring regular pain relief are receiving ongoing care from appropriate medical professionals.

“Emergency rooms across the nation have implemented similar systems. The bottom line is that too many people are using pain medications without the kind of medical care that’s required to manage their conditions and their prescriptions,” says Tracy Garcia, CRMC’s director of trauma and emergency services. “Our protocol is being put in place to ensure we are helping people and that we are not creating a bigger problem, such as addiction or the worsening of pre-existing health issues that need to be closely monitored and managed.”

The new protocol will include a system that tracks how often patients in the emergency department have received and been prescribed pain medications. If there is a concern, the emergency department will send a letter to the patient and the patient’s primary care provider. Additionally, the decision to withhold drugs won't be made by the doctor on duty, but by a hospital panel made up of doctors and administrators who will meet once a month to decide whether patients flagged for unhealthy behavior should officially be labeled abusers.

For more information, see this article from NPR and this article from Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.