As much as one-third of the painkiller drugs abused in the United States come from hospital emergency rooms, a national study indicates. That ought to be all the impetus area hospitals need to go along with voluntary guidelines recommended to curb the problem.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced the guidelines last week, after consulting with state health care associations. Emergency rooms are "one of the largest access points for opiate painkillers. We hope that will be reduced to a trickle," the governor explained.
Kasich's guidelines include a variety of steps to reduce the flow of painkillers into the hands of those who abuse them or provide them to others for improper use. Doctors would limit both the number and duration of painkiller prescriptions. Emergency room staffers would insist on identification from those seeking painkillers - and would check them against a computerized database.
Drug overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio. In 2010, overdoses killed 1,544 Buckeye State residents.
Clearly, implementing the governor's guidelines would help health care professionals comply with their primary credo, "do no harm." Again, area hospitals should embrace and enforce the limits as soon as possible.