Opioid Crisis

Fueled by misperceptions about prescription drug safety, opioid abuse is reaching epidemic proportions, and prescription drugs are misused and abused more often than any other drug, except marijuana and alcohol. Prescription drug abuse-related emergency department visits and treatment admissions have risen significantly in recent years. Other negative outcomes that may result from prescription drug misuse and abuse include overdose and death, falls and fractures in older adults, and, for some, initiating injection drug use with resulting risk for infections such as hepatitis C and HIV. 

The following resources are provided to help you understand this issues and cope with the epidemic. 

ENA Position Statement: Patients with Substance Use Disorders and Addiction in the Emergency Care Setting (2016) 
Substance use disorders contributing to abuse, addiction, and their related consequences pose a significant and escalating public health problem that impacts the emergency care setting. In its most recent published report, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) estimated that 5.1 million drug-related emergency department (ED) visits occurred nationwide in 2011.



Naloxone Education Toolkit
Opioid overdose has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. and impacts emergency departments (EDs) on a daily basis. This places frontline ED Staff in an optimal position to provide just-in-time education to help prevent deaths resulting from opioid overdose. The ENA Naloxone Education Toolkit (NET) is designed for emergency nurses and providers, and includes the necessary resources to educate patients and family members about opioid overdose. Information on distribution and proper use of naloxone kits is also included in this toolkit.

Free public resources:

Journal of Emergency Nursing

Epidemiology of Opioid Abuse and Addiction
Journal of Emergency Nursing, March 2017
Opioid addiction, such as heroin and prescription pain medication, is a growing problem in the United States and internationally. Knowledge and respect for the epidemiology of opioid abuse and addiction, its consequences, and the role of the ED prescriber and nurse in reducing the risk and sequelae of opioid abuse and addiction is critical to reduce the incidence of adverse outcomes and deaths. 

A Tale of Waste and Loss: Lessons Learned 
Journal of Emergency Nursing, April, 2016 
With more than 18,000 drug overdose deaths in 2014, opioid overdoses stand out as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. More than 1.9 million persons are addicted to prescription pain relievers, which far exceeds the number of persons abusing heroin. Unfortunately, health care workers are among these statistics; one in 10 professionals are struggling with an addiction or are abusing medications not prescribed to them. This startling figure is congruent with findings from the American Nurses Association, which estimates that about 10% of nurses are thought to be abusing drugs, and what is more frightening, even working while impaired.

A Framework for the Treatment of Pain and Addiction in the Emergency Department
Journal of Emergency Nursing, March, 2014
Painful conditions account for over 70% of all ED visits in the United States and Canada, yet research has found that pain management for both acute and chronic pain is often inadequate and opioid analgesics are often underused or inappropriately prescribed. The use of prescription opioid analgesics to treat acute and chronic pain has substantially increased in North America in the past decade and so has the incidence of misuse, related harm, and diversion. It is surprising therefore that very little education and training are offered to emergency care personnel on pain management and how to best deal with the risk of addiction, diversion, and abuse associated with dispensing controlled substances.


Find more Journal of Emergency Nursing articles

ENA Legislative Initiatives

From the ENA Public Policy Agenda: 2016/2017

Improve treatment of patients who abuse prescription opioids and heroin
The U.S. is experiencing a historic epidemic in opioids and heroin abuse. In 2014, drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.  ENA will support comprehensive legislation to combat the ongoing national crisis of addiction to opioid drugs, including provisions to encourage states and local communities to pursue a full array of proven strategies to combat addiction and support individuals in recovery.

Opioids Posing Increasingly Dangerous Threat to Emergency Nurses (7/2017)

ENA Applauds Senate Passage of Comprehensive Mental Health Reform and Opioid Treatment Funding Legislation (12/2016)

ENA Praises Zika and Opioid Funding in Stopgap Spending Bill (9/2016)

New Naloxone Education Toolkit Arms Frontline Emergency Department Staff with Just-in-Time Guidance for Lifesaving Opioid Overdose Intervention(8/2016)


Other Resources

Webinar: Safe Use of Opioids in the Acute Care Setting: Within Our Reach
Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP), sponsored by an unrestricted educational grant from Fresenius.
Tue, Jul 11, 2017 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM CDT

Research Report: Misuse of Prescriptive Drugs
National Institute of Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov

Web Site: Opioids: The Prescription Drug and Heroin Overdose Epidemic 
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: www.hhs.gov

Web Site: Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: https://www.samhsa.gov

Feature Article: ED Nurses Fight Opioid Epidemic
Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses: http://nursing.advanceweb.com

Working to promote safe practice and safe care.