Emergency Medicine and Addiction: A Critical Intervention Point

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

By Jessica Hulsey Nickel

It is easy to get lost in the dizzying data of our nation’s overdose epidemic: 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016, a number larger than the entire population of Terre Haute, Indiana.

We are losing the equivalent of a plane crash every day in America. If those planes were actually going down every day the FAA would stop operations until they found out exactly what was going on, yet we are still slow and struggling to take a response to scale to address the opioid crisis nationally.

The numbers don’t adequately convey the heartache and loss that accompanies the disease of addiction either. This loss includes Aimee Manzoni-Darpino from Massachusetts getting to beam with pride at her beloved son Emmett’s college graduation. Emmett would have been graduating this month, had his life not been tragically cut short following a string of seven prior non-fatal opioid overdoses. It includes Doug Griffin from New Hampshire one day walking his beautiful daughter Courtney down the aisle. Courtney passed away due to a fentanyl overdose after insurance coverage was repeatedly denied for the substance use disorder treatment she so desperately needed.

These tragedies can be prevented. We know who our most at-risk patients are: those who have already had a non-fatal overdose are at heightened risk for a fatal overdose. In fact, an estimated 70 percent of people who die of an overdose had previously experienced a non-fatal overdose. Our Emergency Departments (ED) are on the frontline of this public health emergen