The emergency room (ER) is a major component of the health care treatment system. When a person is stricken with a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention and care, an ER is usually the first place to visit. The staff that populate these busy and hectic treatment environments specialize in acting fast in situations where they need to save someone’s life. However, while the research of various mental health fields has brought innovative ideas to the forefront of the academic world, some of these concepts have not completely translated into modern practice. Although the importance of emergency rooms shows no signs of lessening, some treatment protocols may be outdated, especially when helping people suffering from addiction.
One topic with the largest leaps in research is drug addiction. Now officially recognized as a disease of the brain, the psychological and physical ramifications of this abusive disorder can be as life-threatening as a gunshot wound. While various aspects of addiction have been explored in recent decades, including the most effective forms of treatment, the practice of these evidence-based care methods have not been universally adopted.
In the case of a serious medical issue that is neglected or has become unmanageable, dual diagnosis treatment centers not only remedy the problem at hand, but the underlying causes of that problem are also treated. In contrast, the current ER procedure for treating an addiction only addresses the physical problems. For example, if an individual is convulsing due to an extreme lack or abundance of a substance, doctors and nurses will attempt to rescue the patient. But after the person is stabilized, he or she will be released.
Unfortunately, this protocol has developed some worrisome trends in the treatment system. A particularly prevalent concern is the rampant drug-seeking behavior due to unintentional addiction-feeding exploitations in emergency rooms. A recent study conducted by Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit discovered a number of findings concerning substance addiction and a classified group of ER visitors known as “super-frequent users.” These particular patients are typically admitted at least ten times a year for drug-related needs.
When frequent users were examined for symptoms of dependency, a staggering 77 percent were found to have some type of diagnosable substance addiction. Led by Jennifer Peltzer-Jones, R.N., Psy.D., the clinical psychologist’s results showcased a great need to address the underlying causes of this troubling trend. She declared, “Boosting federal and state funding for substance abuse programs could help alleviate some of the frequent use of Emergency Departments as sources of addiction care.”
According to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been exponential rises in emergency room visits involving nonmedical use of various prescription drugs. The most prevalent medications include opioid analgesics, benzodiazepines and many other pain-relieving pharmaceuticals with increases ranging from 72 to 132 percent. In the United States, the unwarranted use of narcotics received from emergency rooms more than doubled from 2004 to 2008 and has been linked to similar trends of prescription drug overdoses.
In the face of this widespread dilemma, faculty members at Connecticut’s Yale-New Haven Hospital explored the implementation of counseling for prescription addictions within ER settings. Fortunately, the researchers’ hopeful hypothesis of counseling benefits was met with positive results. Participants were randomly divided into different groups, with more than three quarters of those given medicine, a counseling intervention and a referral for future treatment in the next 30 days. By comparison, those who received counseling and a referral showed a 45 percent chance to seek treatment and those who only received a referral had a 37 percent chance.
The current study focused on the prescription of buprenorphine, but its results highlight a general tool to curb addiction for all frequent ER visitors. Counseling and providing comprehensive resources for recovery demonstrates a significant benefit to addicted and drug-seeking individuals. As in many effective treatment programs, a balance of medication and therapy show the best rates of progress. In addition to its documentation in research, the issue has been publicized by the media multiple times and advice exists online for doctors to prevent the drug abuse and for patients seeking to attempt the drug abuse.
Sovereign Health of California’s treatment programs and the qualified staff focus on delivering extensive care options for various populations. Even people struggling with addiction can undergo a combination of different treatment plans to reach a state of stability at any of our statewide locations. If you or someone you love is battling a dependency to a prescription medication, contact our representatives online or call (866) 819-0427 for more information.
Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer