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Guidelines Released For Prescribing Narcotics In Emergency Rooms

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Abuse of prescription pain killers has been a growing problem. It's now the leading cause of accidental death – more than even car accidents.

With this in mind, the American College of Emergency Physicians came out with a policy statement about appropriate prescribing guidelines for narcotic pain medicine in the E.R.

"So many narcotic prescriptions and opioid prescriptions are given in emergency departments they wanted to make sure we had some guidelines," Dr. Thomas Campbell with Allegheny General Hospital's emergency room, said.

A panel for the group reviewed situations in which pain medications are prescribed and came to a consensus.

Opiate pain medication is acceptable if the situation warrants it, but for only a week. Strong consideration should be made for other drug classes of pain relievers if that would be work just as well.

Doctors will need to keep in mind possible drug seeking and a state monitoring program may help identify people who are looking for drugs to abuse or misuse.

More than 30 states, including Pennsylvania, have these, but doctors may not be aware.

"A lot of the insurers and prescription insurers do have sort of a watch list on how many opioids are prescribed, how often and the number," Dr. Campbell said. "And they notify the physicians of the prescriptions that the patients have had."

The practices put forth in the policy statement are already what many ERs do.

"I hope people will think about how they prescribe opioids and think about alternatives to help prevent some of the bad outcomes we've seen with overdoses and abuse of the medications," Dr. Campbell said. "I hope it doesn't lead to people who are truly in pain not getting what they need."

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