New emergency room guidelines to prevent opioid prescription painkiller abuse have been announced by New York Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Chief Policy Advisor John Feinblatt.

Opioid painkillers are some of the most powerful prescription painkillers on the market.

“Prescription painkillers can provide life-changing relief for people in dire health situations, but they can be extremely dangerous if used or prescribed improperly. Working with health care providers and public health criminal justice experts our task force is providing the tools to fight a burgeoning epidemic while protecting legitimate health care needs. Together we are committed to addressing the violent impact that drug abuse is having on individuals and communities.”

“Changing practice by front line providers is key to changing the course of this epidemic. While prosecutors and the law enforcement community rightly focus on those who illegally prescribe, dispense or procure painkillers, health leaders need to focus on encouraging well-meaning doctors and pharmacists to prescribe and dispense these medications safely and judiciously. Our work will proceed on all fronts to curtail the harms that come from painkiller misuse.”


  • Oxycodone
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl patches

  • Emergency departments will not prescribe methadone, fentanyl patches or extended-release oxydocone – i.e. long-acting opioid painkillers

  • In the majority of cases, emergency departments will not prescribe more than a 3-day supply of opioid painkillers

  • Lost, destroyed or stolen opioid painkiller prescriptions will not be refilled in emergency departments

  • The posters also contain information on how to avoid unintended harms from such painkillers – these are available in several languages apart from English, including Russian, Chinese, and Spanish. New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation’s 11 emergency departments have all agreed to adopt the guidelines. Private hospitals are being encouraged by New York’s Health Department to adopt these guidelines too.

JAMApatients on higher prescription opioid painkiller doses have a considerably greater risk of unintentional overdose and consequent death compared to those on lower doses

Between 1999 and 2006 over 14,000 people died from prescription opioid overdoses annually