Painkillers and Drug Problems in the E.R.

A new study shows an increase in the prescription of powerful narcotic drugs in American emergency rooms.  A 49% increase in opioid painkillers despite a small percentage increase in painful conditions was noticed between 2001 thru 2010. This is a troubling increase.

OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin are a few of the well know painkillers often prescribed in emergencies.  ER doctors treat severe pain without the benefit of long-term contact with most patients, and are often trying to make sure the patient is not only comfortable, but also happy with their treatment. These drugs are easily abused, very addicting and often are being prescribed for the wrong type pain.

“In many cases, naproxen, Tylenol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen are the best choices,” said Dr. Ryan Stanton, an ER doctor in Lexington, Ky., and spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

In 2000, experts established new standards for the treatment and evaluation of patient pain for use in U.S. hospitals, possibly due to the demand for better pain management by experts.

“There was a feeling that pain was being undertreated,” said Dr. Maryann Mazer-Amirshahi of George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C., one of the researchers on the new study.

Prescription of a narcotic is absolutely appropriate in the case of a broken bone, but not the best choice for a sprained ankle or muscle pain. Over-the-counter pain medication, ice, and rest are often very effective remedies and strong painkillers are not needed and can be expensive.

“For low back pain and headache, which are very common, the evidence supporting the use of these drugs is actually not that good.”

The risk of addiction from narcotic drugs should be seriously considered before beginning treatment in the E.R. or doctors office. Your regular health care provider should be able to suggest alternatives to opioid drugs for relief from pain. Be aware of the danger of using strong painkillers when they are not medically necessary and seek help if you have concerns or questions.

…and for those who are drug seeking, ER physicians are aware of these trends and are becoming increasingly less likely to prescribe opioid painkillers without serious thought given to alternatives first.



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