A report issued by the Drug Abuse Warning Network reports 4.9 million drug related emergency room visits in 2010. Of these visits, approximately half were attributed to drug misuse or abuse. Pain Relievers such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone and other narcotics were the most frequently abused or misused. Misuse of anti-anxiety medications and prescription sleep aids also resulted in a high number of emergency room admissions. Alcohol use accounted for half a million emergency room admissions in 2010.
Crisis workers responding to emergency rooms should be reviewing lab reports, Blood Alcohol Levels, and Drug screens whenever possible. Having illegal substances on board, or misuse of prescribed drugs, can contribute to altered mental status, suicidal threats and gestures, and exacerbation of other mental health problems. At times, detoxification may be the more appropriate option for the individual in crisis, rather than hospitalization on a psychiatric unit.
Accurate information regarding an individual’s substance use is imperative in order to effectively triage a crisis.