State agencies issue opioid prescription guidelines for hospitals

The Connecticut Hospital Association, the Connecticut State Medical Society, the Connecticut Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health have endorsed a set of voluntary guidelines to help hospital emergency department staff treat patients with chronic pain conditions. The guidelines are intended to be used as a tool to help reduce the inappropriate use of opioids while preserving the vital role of hospital emergency departments in treating patients with emergent medical conditions.

The project was initiated in 2012 by emergency department directors from hospitals across Connecticut who identified improper opioid use as a problem both nationally and in Connecticut. Specifically:

  • The use of prescription opioids to manage pain has increased 10-fold over the past 20 years in the United States.
  • At the same time, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids has risen, and is now greater than cocaine and heroin combined. In Connecticut, residents are more likely to die from an unintentional drug overdose than a car accident. The majority of these deaths are attributable to overdose of prescription opioid painkillers.
  • In 2014, there were nearly 1,900 Connecticut hospital emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses, which corresponded to a hospital ED utilization rate of 5.2 encounters per 10,000 individuals.

These guidelines are recommended as part of a broader statewide focus on opioid prescribing initiatives, and demonstrate the willingness of hospitals and physicians to engage in multi-sector collaboration with the Department of Public Health to reduce the misuse and abuse of opioids and other prescription drugs in Connecticut.

The announcement comes on the heels of a report from the Centers for Disease Control showing that a huge number of women of reproductive age use painkillers. Since one half of all pregnancies are unplanned, doctors worry that women will unknowingly use these medications while pregnant and possibly harm their unborn children.

Amanda Cuda