The One Emergency Most Hospitals Aren’t Prepared To Handle

In the past, hospitals would avoid help when it came to drug abuse or addiction because of time, resources, or antiquated attitudes. But now, some hospitals are employing addiction treatment specialists who can advocate, and get real help for, an addict.

By Trista Sobeck | Published


For the most part, when you go to a hospital—whether you were admitted via the ER or from your primary care doctor—you know you’re going to get all the treatment you need in order to recover. However, this is not usually the case if you are living with substance addiction

If you don’t have an addiction, you may get referred to a specialist or even see one there. Hospitals generally employ specialists in anything from adolescents to kidneys to bones. Once you’re at the hospital, chances are, you’ll get a solution to the problem that brought you through the doors.

Drug Abusers Tossed Aside

The typical scenario that happens in America’s hospitals is that once someone is treated for the primary reason they are at the hospital, even if they are begging for help from substance addiction, they can’t get it. 

For example, a woman, age 52 goes takes herself to the ER because she fell and feels she may have broken her arm. The arm gets set and she’s good to go. But, let’s say that she is addicted to heroin, was high when she fell and is ready to accept help for good. Or, maybe she needs withdrawal treatment. 

For the most part, she can’t get treatment for her addiction there. Even if she is in the throes of withdrawal sickness (something an addict can get if they go too long without drugs), he or she is left to deal with that one on their own. The sickness is so bad, addicts will typically go back to their drug of choice. Even if they want to recover. Unfortunately, at this point, an addict is at a high risk of overdosing which could very possibly result in death.

Because of the stigma associated with drug addiction, most hospitals tend to not want to deal with it because many parts of the medical world in hospitals—or their board of directors—don’t want to see it as a true medical emergency or a disease. 

Whose Problem is Addiction to Fix?

Unfortunately, an old idea is still around that addiction is the result of poor choices or certain moral failings. It all is caused because the addict has a defect in their character because they made a poor choice. And addiction doesn’t need to take up the medical community’s time. That’s the job of those in mental health, right?

Although this is an antiquated notion, it’s real and prominent in most hospitals today. There’s just not enough time, and too many people to treat with medical issues. But what if the addict wanted help then and there? Surely, someone would get them help. Probably not. 

Timing is key with addiction. When they decide they are ready to seek treatment, their support system needs to jump on it. Time will only make the addict second guess their decision or the pull of the drug is too strong. 

However, things are starting to charge as addiction becomes rampant in our society. According to NPR, some hospitals are beginning to employ addiction treatment specialists who can help the ailing addict with their addiction as their physical issue heals. Treatment specialists can be an advocate and get an addict real help. Judgment free. 

This is definitely a start to help bolster what hospitals can do for people suffering from addiction. Now, if they could just adjust costs or address insurance issues, maybe the future would be even brighter. But, treating addiction with the help of federal funding is a start.