Opioid Overdoses Still Rising, ER Doctors Play Integral Role in Stopping It

Opioid Overdoses Still Rising, ER Doctors Play Integral Role in Stopping It
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The opioid crisis is still worsening across the country, according to recent sets of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Between the end of 2016 and the same time period in 2017, opioid overdoses increased roughly 30% on average when considering all demographics of opioid addicts. The information correlates clearly with fears that more people are using heroin laced with fentanyl without realizing it. Fentanyl is an opioid that can be 30x more potent than heroin, capable of triggering a fatal overdose in an adult when as little as three milligrams are injected into the bloodstream.

While there are many factors and efforts that need to be considered to stop the opioid crisis once and for all, health and safety groups are beginning to see that emergency room (ER) doctors are uniquely positioned to make a difference. For many people who suffer an opioid overdose, an ER doctor is their only point-of-contact in the healthcare system. With this said, they are the only medical professionals who might be able to help them realize their addiction problem and seek further help kicking the potentially deadly habit.

ER doctors who engage in lifesaving procedures are being encouraged to think of what else they can do to help opioid overdose patients. They can direct patients to overdose education courses and also give them a list of trusted drug rehabilitation centers. ER doctors can make notes and comments to their peers to reduce opioid prescriptions for that particular patient, or even recommending further treatment or surveillance from other physicians.

State-Level Drug Monitoring Programs

Some states, including Washington, have implemented new prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) to help ER doctors and physicians know about at-risk patients. Certain PDMPs allow ER doctors to work with community groups and public health outreaches to distribute naloxone kits where needed. A dosage of naloxone is often the only way to reverse or begin reversing the life-threatening symptoms of an opioid overdose.

Another approach being used by healthcare organizations is actively and deliberately cutting down opioid prescriptions given to at-risk patients. They are not entirely taken off their prescriptions but dosage intervals are reduced, the amount of an opioid used per dose is decreased, or both. Since those patients still have the ability to come to the emergency room if their pain becomes too severe, it is considered a workable middle ground. Some emergency departments have reported a 36% drop in opioid prescriptions since implementing this strategy.

(For more information about the opioid crisis and how ER doctors are helping combat it, you can click hereto view a full article from Forbes. Login information may be required.)

Subsequent Treatments to Improve a Patient’s Chances

Even when an ER doctor gives ample advice and care to an opioid overdose patient, there is always a sizeable chance the patient will return to opioid abuse sooner than later. In order to improve their chances of recovery, opioid abuse patients need to find and rely on a trustworthy drug rehabilitation center. Every patient requires their own treatments and therapies that match their unique situation and needs.

At Acceptance Recovery Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, we are known for providing people with personalized and effective drug recovery plans and residential treatments. With our 12-step philosophy and focus on your better future, we know you can find comfort and confidence while working with our team. Call to request a free assessment. Together, we can defeat opioid addiction!

About Dr. Greg Gale, MD

Dr. Greg Gale has been practicing and providing leadership in the field of psychiatry, substance use, and integrated care in the Phoenix metropolitan area for over 11 years. He joins us from his role as a national medical director overseeing behavioral health, substance use, and integrated care services for Humana Behavioral Health. Previously, he was CMO and VP of Clinical Services at Partners in Recovery, a not-for-profit behavioral health and substance use service organization, which operates five clinics throughout Maricopa County. Read more about Dr. Greg Gale, MD