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Opioid Epidemic Prompting Changes In San Diego Emergency Rooms

Schedule 2 narcotics: Morphine Sulfate, OxyContin and Opana are displayed for...

Credit: Associated Press

Above: Schedule 2 narcotics: Morphine Sulfate, OxyContin and Opana are displayed for a photograph in Carmichael, Calif., Jan. 18, 2013.

For years, hospital emergency rooms have been seen as easy marks for people who are doctor shopping for opioids like Vicodin and Oxycontin.

But that perception may be changing. An effort aimed at getting local emergency room physicians to change their prescribing practices appears to be bearing fruit.

RELATED: San Diego Conference Addresses Epidemic Of Opioid-Related Deaths

Dr. Roneet Lev, chief of emergency medicine at San Diego's Scripps Mercy Hospital, has been leading the charge to get local emergency departments to abide by a set of voluntary guidelines. These include: checking a state database to make sure a patient is not doctor shopping, and dispensing only small amounts of opioids when necessary.

Lev said a recent survey was encouraging.

“Ten out of 19 emergency departments said that they had significantly reduced their prescribing since we started our safe prescribing guidelines," she said.

Even so, it is hard to measure whether those efforts are making a big difference.

County health officials say the number of San Diegans who’ve died from an opioid overdose has risen three years in a row.

The epidemic of opioid abuse is prompting physicians to rethink their prescribing habits, especially in hospital emergency rooms.


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