As another way to limit the amount of people abusing prescription drugs, some emergency rooms are instituting new procedures and policies to prevent over-prescribing narcotic painkillers. These new policies are backed by good intentions, but it may be too little too late.
Doctors and nurses in emergency rooms are asked to prescribe the lowest potency to a patient, without exceeding what they truly need. Physicians are also asked to only supply what is absolutely needed until the patient can get to a pharmacy, not exceeding seven days. In the case where long acting opiates need to be prescribed, physicians are warned to first consult with the patient’s primary doctor.
The guidelines are good in the sense that they will probably prevent some people from obtaining drugs to fuel a habit in the emergency room. However, these are just guidelines, not rules. There is nothing that states that the physicians have to adhere to the above list, it is only cautioned that they should.
Some hospitals have taken the guidelines and turned them into strict policies. One hospital, St. Mary in Pennsylvania, has had similar policies to the ones listed above for the last three years. They do not allow their patients to leave with more than three days’ worth of a prescription painkiller and insist that any refills come from the patient’s primary doctor, rather than the E.R. By doing this, the hospital has seen the amount of people seeking drugs diminish over a period of time. A spokesperson from the hospital commented that if more institutions were as strict as St. Mary’s, perhaps Pennsylvania would be known as a state that is extremely hard to obtain prescription painkillers.
Now that the prescription drug abuse problem has become an epidemic, it is easy to look back and see where we went wrong. The over-prescribing of substances with a high potential for abuse has been one reason why so many people are battling an addiction to prescription painkillers. It should also be noted , of course, that many heroin addicts first started out on painkillers.
The standards set forth by hospitals need to be more than just guidelines. Eliminating the propensity to seek drugs in the emergency room should be high on the list of priorities. If more healthcare providers took heavy precautions to reduce the number of drugs being given out, they would be doing a lot more to help society.