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Emergency Room Care for those with Opioid Addiction

by Cristina Villalon

Emergency Room Care for those with Opioid Addiction

With the opioid crisis continuing to ravage communities around the country, those with opioid use disorder may find themselves in emergency room care due to overdose or health crisis related to their drug use. Although many assume that the ER is the best place to be in case of overdose, there have been an overwhelming amount of instances where overdose and addiction ER patients aren’t given optimal care.

Alarming data shows that about 1 in 20 patients treated for non-fatal overdose in the emergency department die within a year of their visit, some within just 2 days. Two-thirds of those deaths are directly related to non-fatal opioid overdoses, and patients did not receive any extended care of follow-ups upon discharge. Despite the ongoing opioid epidemic worsening for well over two decades, further treatment for those who come into the ER due to overdose is still not part of the healthcare system, and many are dying because of it.

Limitations and Best Practices

In 2017, a study found that only 5% of ER physicians reported offering medications for opioid use disorder and instead were sending patients home with a list of phone numbers and referrals for specialized addiction services. This information is shocking for many, especially when considering that patients treated with medications for opioid use disorder in the ER are twice as likely to be enrolled in treatment a month later compared to those who were given a list of other places to seek help.

In most cases, ERs follow best practices and treat overdose or withdrawal symptoms in patients with substance use disorder. However, if the patient refuses further treatment due to unwillingness, lack of funds, or insurance, they’re able to sign themselves out for discharge. Hospitals cannot involuntarily commit patients, and if they don’t present imminent danger to themselves or others, many overdose or withdrawal patients are set free with referrals.

Improving Access and Resources

Several regions of the country are making great efforts to implement a standard of care in ERs for addiction services with the high volume of opioid-related incidents they see daily. Medical providers are in a unique position to communicate with patients coming into emergency care. While dispensing life-saving opioid antagonist medication, they can offer further addiction treatment while they’re already inside a safe facility, increasing the chances of compliance. Emergency protocols and additional on-site addiction treatment programs for the uninsured, including charity funding and nonprofit support, could significantly improve fatal overdose rates.

Medication-assisted treatment is an ideal choice for patients who have experienced a non-fatal overdose and wish to take back control over their lives from addiction. The outpatient opioid use disorder recovery programs at Health Care Resource Centers are convenient and offer evidence-based therapies, FDA-approved medications, and substance use counseling to all enrolled patients. The staff at HCRC is highly specialized and prioritizes patient wellbeing and privacy. Call or message us today to learn more about the intake process and how to get started.

Medically Reviewed By:

HealthCare Resource Centers Clinical Team

HealthCare Resource Centers Clinical Team

HealthCare Resource Centers Clinical Team

The Clinical Team at HealthCare Resource Centers is our team of physicians and medical directors within the organization. HCRC is a CARF accredited organization and has been providing addiction treatment services for over 32 years in the New England area.

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