So many have us have been there: it’s 3:30 in the morning and we get a frantic call or text telling us our loved one is in the hospital due to drug overdose. Maybe we even saw it happen right in front of us, and all of a sudden, it’s our job to get them to the hospital. The doctors and nurses do what they do, everyone in the family is wracked with fear, grief and emotional agony until it’s discovered that a miracle happened and our loved one escaped within an inch of their life. Everyone calms down, the tears dry, and there’s some lip-service this being the “last time.” After a few hours, maybe a day…our addicted loved one goes home…with no help or guidance.
A recent story from Kaiser Health News highlights a glaring missed opportunity for ERs to do their part in helping patients get the help they need following a drug overdose. The story cites data from a West Virginia Medicaid Study of hundreds of examples of non-fatal overdose. Of all these cases, fewer than 10 percent received any sort of drug treatment guidance or assistance, including medication-assisted treatment guidance, access to support groups or anything else. Study authors were baffled and disheartened at the lack of assistance and called for ER doctors to be more proactive in helping patients who are lucky enough to survive overdose get the help they need so it doesn’t happen again.
In 2017, there were 70, 237 people who weren’t lucky enough to bounce to wake up from overdose. In an era where drug overdose is the highest it’s ever been, stakeholders from every area of the treatment profession should be working to build a more easily traveled bridge to treatment and recovery. ER doctors and nurses see, first-hand, the horrifying realities of drug overdose…but patients stories don’t have to end there.