Opioid Misuse: Tools for the Emergency Provider

AAEM White Paper on Management of Opioid Use Disorder in the Emergency Department


Buprenorphine Patient Information / Discharge Instructions (c/o RM) [.rtf]

Buprenorphine Home Initiation Patient Handout

Buprenorphine 7 Day Sublingual Microdosing Initiation (patient info + Rx)

JAMA Opioid Use Disorder Patient Information

OUD Simulation Package for provider training


30 Minute Lecture on ED-initiated Bup (courtesy of Stony Brook EM)

20 Minute Audiocast on prevention and treatment of OUD in the ED (courtesy of EM-RAP)


Opioid Discharge Instructions

You are being discharged with a prescription for an opioid pain medication. Opioids are powerful analgesics that can be very effective for pain but also have the potential to harm you.  You should only take opioid pain medications if you are still suffering with pain after you’ve optimized non-medication strategies (rest, position of comfort, ice, heat, etc) and non-opioid medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin).  Take opioid pain medications as prescribed; do not take more than prescribed or take the pills in a different way than prescribed.

Opioids often cause constipation, nausea, and itching. Opioids can also cause more dangerous problems such as feeling ill, excessive sleepiness, confusion, and falls. Older people and people with liver or kidney disease are more prone to these harms. You should not drive or perform dangerous work while using opioid pain medications.

If you take too much opioid pain medication, your breathing can slow or even stop, which can be fatal. This is how people die from an opioid overdose.

Opioids can cause acute physical dependence after only a few days, which means that if you take opioid pain medications for a few days and then stop, you might experience withdrawal symptoms such as muscle aches, pain, insomnia, feeling nauseated and ill, depressed, agitated, or anxious, and you might even crave more pills. If you take more opioid pills, these symptoms will be greatly relieved, however this is the beginning of a very dangerous cycle of dependence, which can lead to addiction. If it is possible that you are experiencing acute physical dependence, do not take more opioid pills and discuss the problem with your doctor.

Lastly, once this painful episode is over, dispose of any unused pills–you can take them back to the pharmacy or flush them down the toilet. Leftover opioid pills can be extremely dangerous to children, and are a major source of recreational use, especially among adolescents and young adults.


Opioid Misuse Phraseology

My job is to manage your pain at the same time that I manage the potential for some pain medications to harm you.

I know you are in pain and I want to improve your pain, but I believe that opioids are not only the wrong treatment for your pain, but that opioids are the cause of your pain. I think pain medications are harming you, and if you could stop taking them, your pain and your life would improve. Can I offer you resources that will help you stop taking pain medications?

Prescription pain medications, even when used as directed, can cause patients to become dependent, and I’m concerned that the pills we prescribed for you in the past, even though you were using them appropriately, you may now be dependent on them. We can help you break free of that dependence.

My most important job as an emergency doctor is to make sure there’s no emergency, so I would like to do some tests to make sure there’s nothing dangerous happening to you, and also I want to relieve your pain. But you will not receive any opioids while you are here, because I think opioids could be harmful to you.

Here is your prescription. I am not entirely comfortable giving you this prescription because I am concerned that you are being harmed by these pain killers. When you decide that you want to stop using these drugs, and I hope you do, we can help you. Here is a list of resources available to help you stop.


opioid misuse flow


NIDA resource page – includes bup pathway, video, discharge instructions.

NYC DOH resource page – includes great patient bup info links

Pain, Compassion, Addiction, Malingering

How to use opioids and how to not use opioids

Pain and the Poppy Slideset

Video + Slides (University of Toronto) (35 minutes + questions)

SMACC 2015 Audio (right click to download) (25 minutes)

SMACC 2015 Slideset

SMACC Podcast Page

EM Cases Discussion with Anton Helman and David Juurlink

Rick Pescatore: Hidden Dangers of the Opioid Epidemic

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John Oliver’s comprehensive, dead on accurate, often hilarious take: (20 minutes)

A Better Central Line Technique: Wire Through Catheter

Most of us were taught to place central lines using the wire through needle Seldinger technique, but using the introduction catheter instead of the needle makes successful wire insertion more likely and facilitates venous confirmation. A 7 minute screencast.

on vimeo

operating room video of wire through catheter technique. recommend viewing at 2x speed.

Update 1 Lee 2015 compares wire through needle and wire through catheter and shows that wire through needle is (slightly) better. The operators were anesthesiologists very experienced in central line insertion, which may account for their results. In the less controlled ED environment, with providers who don’t place a lot of lines (especially learners), the tendency of the needle to move before the wire can be transmitted may be more important. Also they did not confirm venous location in this study, which should be done whenever feasible and is greatly facilitated by the wire through catheter technique. Still, I’m aware of no data comparing the two techniques other than this (which appeared a few weeks after I posted the video), so though my success rate is definitely higher since I switched to wire through catheter, your mileage may vary.

Update 2  There are two advantages of the wire through needle (conventional approach): the needle is functionally slightly longer than the catheter, and the needle doesn’t kink. Neither of these advantages make a difference at the IJ site, and where I work almost all lines are IJ, so I didn’t mention this in the video. Based on feedback, I am surprised (and pleased) at how many non-IJ lines are being placed out there. If there is a lot of flesh in between the skin and the vein, for example at the femoral site in an obese person, the catheter can kink. This can be managed by keeping the pannus out of the way and keeping the skin taut throughout the procedure (flabby groin tissue can interfere with wire advancement as well, regardless of which technique you use to transmit the wire), but this requires an extra set of hands. At the subclavian site, the problem is not flesh but distance–sometimes you enter the vein relatively far away from where you enter the skin, and in this case the couple of millimeter difference between the wire and the catheter can be relevant. You can overcome this problem, in cases where you have to hub the catheter to get into the vein, by applying gentle continuous forward pressure on the hub until the wire is in the vein.


The Procedural Sedation Screencast Trilogy

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Three part screencast covering the essentials of procedural sedation and analgesia for emergency clinicians.

Part one covers how to think about and prepare for PSA, including a discussion of fasting guidelines. 13 minutes.

Part two describes how patients are harmed during PSA and how to prevent patients from being harmed during PSA. 29 minutes.

Part three discusses contemporary PSA pharmacology. 16 minutes.




Emergency Department PSA Checklist