December 22, 2016
2 min read

Opioid-related ED visits, inpatient stays continue to rise

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Since 2005, there have been significant increases in hospitalizations and overdose deaths related to opioids nationwide, according to new data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; however, there are significant variations in these trends by state.

Health officials said they would use the data to make better decisions to address the epidemic.

"These new data provide vital insights into the trends that are shaping one of the nation’s most pressing health challenges," Andy Bindman, MD, acting director of Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) said in a press release. "With updated information about state and regional variations in opioid-related hospital care, we’re increasing our potential to develop effective strategies to tackle the crisis."

AHRQ researchers compiled data from several federal sources and reported the following nationwide rates:

  • inpatient stays related to opioid use went up 64.1% between 2005 and 2014;
  • ·opioid-related ED visits went up 99.4% between 2005 and 2014; and
  • ·overdose deaths involving opioids went up 200% between 2000 and 2014.

Some of the state data researchers reported included:

  • inpatient stays related to opioid use increased in most states between 2009 and 2014, with the most in Oregon (88.9%), North Carolina (81.8%) and South Dakota (74.1%);
  • opioid related ED visits increased in almost all states between 2009 and 2014, with these numbers more than doubling in Ohio (119.1%), South Dakota (106.4%) and Minnesota (102.3%); and
  • Massachusetts had the highest rate of opioid-related ED visits per 100,000 population (n = 441.6) in 2014, followed by Rhode Island (n = 288.6) and Maryland (n = 288.4).

In addition, the HHS reported opioid poisonings cost the United States more than $20 billion each year in ED and hospital care, and overdoses attributed to opioids are responsible for 90 deaths each day.

Earlier this year, the CDC released guidelines for primary care physicians to deal with what it called “the epidemic of overdose deaths” in the United States, and previously published research offered other suggestions for addressing the crisis.

Bindman said AHRQ supports HHS initiatives to curb opioid use, including working on opioid prescribing practices, expanding the use of naloxone to treat overdoses, and expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment to lower opioid disorders and overdoses.

According to the release, AHRQ is providing approximately $12 million in grants over 3 years for projects in rural areas, such as the lack of social support services, stigma toward people with substance abuse disorders, the lack of continuing training opportunities for prescribing physicians, and negative expectations about treatment’s efficacy.

“Having been a primary care physician who practiced in a safety-net setting, I’m very familiar with patients who use opioids. These drugs are remarkable in their ability to block the sensation of pain, which comes in handy after surgery or an injury,” Bindman said in an accompanying blog. “However, chronic use of these medications or misuse of them for recreational purposes can lead to significant functional impairments, serious health complications, and even death. The increasing availability of these drugs inside and outside of the health care system is contributing to an epidemic that can be devastating for patients and their families.”

Disclosure: Bindman works for AHRQ.

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