One of the most popular ways for people who abuse prescription narcotics to obtain their painkillers is by checking into an emergency room and complaining of some sort of pain. Most of the time the ER is extremely busy and doctors are understaffed. This means that the users can rely on doctors treating them quickly and not asking too many questions. Oftentimes doctors end up handing out prescriptions so they can move on to the next patient. However, research has shown that so many drug users exploit this system that more hospital administrators have insisted on policy changes regarding the dispensing of prescription narcotics.
An estimated 44 people died every day in the United States because of prescription painkiller overdoses. This alarming number has forced many doctors to change the way they treat patients. Instead of quickly addressing minor pain issues with an opiate, they now have to assess whether the person is engaging in drug-seeking behavior or not. The major sign of this behavior is when doctors see the same patient multiple times in a short period, each time with a different pain complaint and always requesting some drugs. With this new type of policy change, some hospital employees are worried about the added stress to their case load. Extra time spent with patients who were not medical emergencies could cause the hospital to lose money, and more importantly, take care away from someone that is in need of legitimate help.
“When I’ve got 15 people waiting for treatment, I want to get in, find out what’s going with you, and get your care started right away. You feel better and I can move on to the next patient,” explained Tracy Garcia, an ER director in Wyoming.
There are a few states looking to implement patient tracking programs that are similar to the prescription drug monitoring tools used to identify drug-seeking consumers. In these new forms of administration, panels review patient cases of those flagged for suspicious behavior and decide whether or not they can be given any prescriptions in the future.
Initial reports from these hospitals show that they have actually been able to save money by not giving prescriptions to people flagged as drug abusers. This has also reduced the case load a bit and given them the ability to hire more nurses.
Cutting down on the number of prescriptions handed out for opiates is one key step in the reduction of the painkiller problem in America. Doctors and hospitals can also help to divert patients into addiction treatment programs when they have been identified as having a substance abuse issue. This, and other forms of prescription drug interventions are vital to saving some of those 44 lives each day.