American Academy of Emergency Medicine

AAEM Announces Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Cancer Related Pain

Monday, November 25, 2013

Contact: Kay Whalen (kwhalen@aaem.org)
             Executive Director, AAEM
             Phone: 800-884-2236

            Janet Wilson (jwilson@aaem.org)
            Associate Executive Director, AAEM
            Phone: 800-884-2236

MILWAUKEE — The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) has released a new clinical practice statement for emergency physicians regarding the prescription of opioids for non-cancer pain.

Over half of the patients who come to the emergency department (ED) list pain as their chief complaint, or most serious symptom they are experiencing. Emergency clinicians vary in how they manage their patient’s pain, especially with respect to the use of opioid medications.

Opioid medications are a type of narcotic medication used to treat pain. However, as the frequency of opioid prescriptions increases, non-medical use, addiction, drug-related emergency department visits, and death have significantly increased as well.

The dangers of prescribing opioid medications extend beyond the individual patient and may adversely impact public health. Approximately 13% of high school seniors have reported non-medical use of prescription opioids. Despite emergency departments prescribing only a fraction of those prescriptions written nationally, ED prescriptions for opioids are reported to account for approximately 45% of those opioids diverted for non-medical use.

In light of this, AAEM developed guidelines to provide the emergency clinician with recommendations regarding the safe, effective, and ethical practice of pain management in the emergency department setting. These recommendations may be adopted in whole or in part and should be adapted to address individual hospital policies along with state and local regulations. The document is not meant to replace the judgment of the treating clinician who is in the best position to determine the needs of the individual patient.

To read the full clinical practice statement and recommendations, please visit: 

AAEM President, William T. Durkin, Jr., MD MBA FAAEM, noted, “As prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in this country, emergency physicians are increasingly put in a position of having to deal with those with chronic pain and those who are drug seeking. The Academy's policy provides guidelines whereby patients are treated while decreasing the probability that the emergency physician becomes the supplier of controlled substances to those who would abuse them.”

The American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM) is the specialty society in emergency medicine today. As an organization, AAEM believes achievement of board certification represents the only acceptable method of attaining recognition as a specialist in emergency medicine.

For more information about AAEM, our mission and programs, please visit:
www.aaem.org or call 800-884-2236