Smuggling Drugs Into Hospitals?

One aspect of the opioid crisis that is affecting the hospital community specifically involves patients caught so firmly in the grip of substance use disorder that while they are being treated, the patients are either having their friends or family smuggle illicit drugs into the hospital, or they are leaving the beds to get their drugs from the streets surrounding care facilities.

MHA, working at the suggestion of one of its trustees -- Deeb Salem, M.D., physician in chief and chair of the department of medicine at Tufts Medical Center -- last week sent out a call asking hospitals to send MHA any policies they may have on the issue.  That is, how do hospitals identify and help patients with substance use disorder avoid the symptoms of opioid withdrawal while hospitalized? Do hospitals search patient rooms? Do they enter into “opioid patient contracts”? Do they attempt to limit contacts with recovering patients or monitor friends bringing items into a patient’s room?

MHA discussed the issue with its Physician Leadership Council and then with the MHA Board of Trustees, both of whom endorsed the information gathering step as a prelude to MHA compiling best practices and, potentially, creating a template for all hospitals to follow.

MHA’s VP of Clinical Integration Steven Defossez, M.D. is heading up the association’s effort.