ERs are Dispensing Too Much Pain Medicine

Emergency Room injection of the drug.

It’s time we talked about and understood the pain medicine epidemic that our nation is struggling with. According to research, more Americans are being prescribed powerful narcotic painkillers when they visit the Emergency Room, and that is not a good thing. It is not a good thing because these drugs are overprescribed when simpler, safer, less addictive methods would be just as workable. Patients are now being put on powerful painkillers for symptoms as easily treatable as lower back pain, headaches, and jaw pain.

That has to change, which is why we need to talk about it.

Addiction is a hard topic to stomach, and a harder one to accept when it affects someone close to you. Perhaps equally hard to stomach is the fact that our doctors don’t always do what’s best for us. That’s a round-house hook to the face right there.

But it’s true, doctors, who are usually acting on orders from on-high are prescribing powerful, narcotic painkillers at amounts way too high, to too many patients, and for too long of a duration.

The Numbers No One Wants to Look At

Between the years 2001 and 2010, records indicate that U.S. emergency departments across the U.S. showed a no less than forty-nine percent increase in prescriptions for opioid pain relievers. But during that same time, there was only a scant, few-percent increase in the number of patients seeking help for a pain-related occurrence.

Holding pill.

What this tells us is that doctors, ER departments, pain clinics, and pharmacies are simply doling out more painkillers. Patients who would never have received a high-strength opioid eighteen years ago for lower-back pain are now being put on drugs that could (and often do) end up being highly addictive and mind-altering.

The Controversy

If we’re being honest with ourselves, we don’t want to look at this problem. We don’t want to consider, for a second, that our doctors might not be acting with our very best interests at heart. We don’t want to consider that our medical experts might not be treating us as patients in the very best way that they can.

But that is what is happening, and the ongoing, eighteen-year opioid epidemic is the evidence to show for it.

Prescription pain relievers are necessary, but only in severe cases to treat surgery recovery, major illness or disease recovery, cancer cases, and the terminally ill. Surgeons would not be able to perform certain surgeries without pain medication and high-strength numbing agents. Certain maladies would not heal unless pain medication were introduced to relax the nervous system enough so that those maladies can heal.

But the problem is, pain medication is highly overused to the point where it has become an erroneous “cure all” in modern-day medical practice.

According to Dr. Ryan Stanton, ER doctor in Lexington, Kentucky, and spokesperson for the American College of Emergency Physicians:

“In many cases, naproxen, Tylenol (acetaminophen) and ibuprofen are the best choices. The findings are not shocking. This is reflective of the growing use of opiates across the board, not just in emergency medicine. You need an overall treatment plan, not a one-stop Band-Aid.”

Better Pain Treatment in High Demand

Dr. Stanton is not the only doctor clamoring for reform in how our medical society approaches pain. Many others feel the same way, and entire coalitions have formed in an attempt to revolutionize 21st-century pain management. For our safety and the betterment of our future, we need to focus on promoting alternative methods of pain relief, methods that do not carry so much risk.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.