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Clinical Policy: Critical Issues in the Prescribing of Opioids for Adult Patients in the Emergency Department


This clinical policy deals with critical issues in prescribing of opioids for adult patients treated in the emergency department (ED). This guideline is the result of the efforts of the American College of Emergency Physicians, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration. The critical questions addressed in this clinical policy are: (1) In the adult ED patient with noncancer pain for whom opioid prescriptions are considered, what is the utility of state prescription drug monitoring programs in identifying patients who are at high risk for opioid abuse? (2) In the adult ED patient with acute low back pain, are prescriptions for opioids more effective during the acute phase than other medications? (3) In the adult ED patient for whom opioid prescription is considered appropriate for treatment of new-onset acute pain, are short-acting schedule II opioids more effective than short-acting schedule III opioids? (4) In the adult ED patient with an acute exacerbation of noncancer chronic pain, do the benefits of prescribing opioids on discharge from the ED outweigh the potential harms?

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