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Opioids and pain in the emergency department: a narrative crisis
  1. Jay Baruch1,
  2. Stacey Springs2
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  2. 2Center for Evidence Synthesis in Health, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jay Baruch, Department of Emergency Medicine, Alpert Medical School at Brown University, Providence, RI 02905, USA; jay_baruch{at}


The opioid crisis poses challenges to patients who come to the emergency department (ED) in pain and the clinicians who have a duty to offer relief. In search of help, patients often find suspicion. But clinicians have reasons to be concerned about feeding addiction and its lethal consequences. This article discusses the narrative challenges facing many clinicians in the ED tasked with caring for complex patients in pain. It will discuss the many ways our brains are influenced by story, and how this susceptibility is often beyond our grasp. And yet, narrative and story skills present great opportunities for improving pain management, not only when it comes to opioids, but by returning the focus back to the patient in pain.

  • pain management
  • opioids
  • narrative medicine
  • medical humanities
  • emergency medicine

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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