Over the last four years, local emergency departments saw a 50 percent increase in opioid overdoses. Often, it's hospital emergency rooms that treat people who are suffering from chronic pain. Now, Connecticut hospital ERs are looking at ways to manage pain but also prevent the abuse of prescription painkillers.
Several medical associations in Connecticut have endorsed voluntary guidelines for local emergency departments to reduce the inappropriate use of opioids.
Carl Schiessl, Director of Regulatory Advocacy with the Connecticut Hospital Association, said directors of emergency rooms gather monthly at CHA. He said it was at one of those meetings where the idea for the guidelines came up.
"We had a very robust conversation about prescription drug overdose problem in Connecticut, and how this problem was manifesting itself through lots of patients coming to emergency rooms seeking treatment for pain," Schiessl said. "These physicians are concerned about doing the right thing for these patients but also mindful that opiate abuse is a national problem."
The state Department of Public Health said residents are more likely to die from an unintentional drug overdose than a car accident. The majority of these deaths are attributed to overdose of prescription opioid painkillers, according to the state Medical Examiner's Office.
The voluntary guidelines for emergency rooms include medical personnel limiting the dosage for prescriptions until the time a patient can seek follow up care, not providing replacement prescriptions for narcotics that the patient has lost or says were stolen or destroyed, and not prescribing opioids when the identity of the patient can't be verified.
Schiessl said several emergency rooms are already following the voluntary guidelines also endorsed by the Connecticut State Medical Society and the state chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians.