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“12/10” Abdominal Pain: Drug-Seeking Behavior 

“12/10” Abdominal Pain: Drug-Seeking Behavior
“12/10” Abdominal Pain: Drug-Seeking Behavior
Legal and Ethical Issues in Emergency Medicine

Chadd K. Kraus


Pain is the most common reason for presentation to the emergency department (ED). Treating pain and eliciting the etiology of pain are fundamental responsibilities of emergency physicians. Frequently termed drug-seeking behavior, presentations of pain in patients with a history of drug misuse or drug addiction and dependence that are unrelated to an acute injury or illness can pose an ethical dilemma for emergency physicians. Emergent etiologies for the patient’s pain must be excluded and might require diagnostic testing, such as laboratory or imaging studies. The emergency physician should not assume that the patient has no injury or illness and is simply drug seeking. Nonnarcotic, nonpharmacologic, or opioids or other analgesics might be the appropriate treatment for a patient with a history of drug-seeking behavior, addiction, or dependence depending on the clinical situation.

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