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Frequent ER-Goers Are Often Addicts

frequent ER-goersA recent study has found that the majority of frequent ER-goers are addicted to drugs or alcohol.[1] A patient is considered a frequent ER-goer if they visit the ER at least 10 times per year, according to Jennifer Peltzer-Jones, RN, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine and the study’s lead author.1

Emergency room doctors have theorized that patients who frequent the ER are addicts; however, few studies have actually measured the rate of addiction in these patients.1 Therefore, Peltzer-Jones and colleagues did.1 They found that 77 percent of patients had a substance addiction; 47 percent were addicted to pain relief narcotics; 44 percent were addicted to illegal drugs; and 35 percent were addicted to alcohol.1

“Emergency Departments cannot address the super-frequent users problems without addressing the underlying reasons they’re here—their substance abuse problem,” said Peltzer-Jones. “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.”1

According to the Federal Drug Abuse Warning Network, an estimated 2.5 million ER visits involved drug abuse or misuse in 2011 alone.1 In fact, ER visits involving drug abuse or misuse jumped 19 percent from 2009 to 2011.1

For the study, Peltzer-Jones and colleagues looked to examine the level of addiction of 255 frequent Er-goers who sought care at Henry Ford’s Emergency Department from 2004 to 2013.1 They also looked to determine whether imposing prescribing guidelines for narcotics affected the number of patients who sought those medicines.1

In 2004, the hospital created the Community Resources for Emergency Department Overuse (CREDO) to manage the increased frequent ER-goers with individualized care plans.1 After reviewing the data from each of the patients’ electronic medical record, the researchers found that CREDO did have a significant impact.1 Before it was initiated, frequent ER-goers sought care 32.4 times per year.1

“Emergency Departments that implement case management initiatives can make meaningful progress in addressing their frequent-user patient population,” said Peltzer-Jones. “As our study showed, the number of frequent users visiting the ED for narcotics is alarming. A successful remedy to curtailing that problem is implementing case management strategies such as ours. However, if Emergency Departments don’t have the resources to create a program, instituting narcotic prescribing guidelines may lead to decreased visits by frequent users.”1



[1] Wood, J. (2014). Most ER ‘Super-Frequent Users’ Are Addicts. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2014/05/18/most-er-super-frequent-users-are-addicts/69969.html

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