To Curb Abuse, Lifespan ERs Adopt Rx Painkiller Guidelines

Dec 18, 2013

Rhode Island Hospital and the entire Lifespan network have announced new guidelines for prescribing painkillers in their emergency rooms. ER doctors are trying to address the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and addiction.

Drug overdoses kill more Rhode Islanders every year than any other kind of injury or accident. The availability and abundance of prescription painkillers like Oxycontin are partly to blame, and those drugs have, for some, been more easily obtainable on a trip to the emergency room. Some ER patients have legitimate pain and need the relief the drugs provide. But emergency medicine chief for Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals Dr. Brian Zink says some are feeding an addiction.

“People who are seeking drugs can go to various emergency departments and the medical record may not follow them around as much as we would hope that it would. And so it is possible for people to shop around," said Zink.

So the hospital chain is arming its emergency medicine physicians with a list of recommendations – not rules – to treat pain but avoid prescribing long courses of addictive painkillers. The recommendations include checking a patient’s prescription history on the state’s prescription drug monitoring program web site.