A&E Departments Facing Addiction Head On

Drug addiction and hospitalsA recent study has found that the people who visit emergency medical services most often are likely to be addicts. The study, done at the Henry Ford Hospital in the USA, fount that so called “super frequent users”, patients who seek emergency treatment at least 10 times per year, are likely to have a drug or alcohol abuse problem.

While ER doctors have long suspected that substance abusers make us the majority of A&E super users, there was never any hard evidence. The study shows that 77% of the super frequent users had a substance abuse problem.

 47% were addicted to prescription painkillers, 44% were addicted to illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin, and 35% were addicted to alcohol.

To help tackle the problem of treating addicts, the ER and the Henry Ford Hospital started implementing prescribing guidelines on individual super user patients. This kept easily abused prescriptions out of the hands of addicts and better tracked the problems of the most frequent hospital users.

This simple step reduced the number of people seeking pain relieving narcotics by by more than 50% and reduced the overall number of visits by super users.

"Emergency Departments that implement case management initiatives can make meaningful progress in addressing their frequent-user patient population," Dr. Peltzer-Jones says. "As our study showed the number of frequent users visiting the ED for narcotics is alarming. A successful remedy to curtailing that problem is implementing case management strategies such as ours. However, if Emergency Departments don't have the resources to create a program, instituting narcotic prescribing guidelines may lead to decreased visits by frequent users."

There are several reasons why this program has the potential to work well. First of all it could more effectively address super users problems by providing doctors with more detailedinformation about their health issues. Second, keeping track of medical requests by super users can prevent drug seeking behaviours and keep narcotics out of the hands of addicts. Finally, by identifying super frequent users, doctors can possibly identify new drug users who might slip through the cracks.

To learn more about drug addiction, Check out the Life Works Knowledge Centre.

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