Jump In Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened

Henrietta Brewer
March 7, 2018

Under state law, doctors are required to check a prescription drug monitoring database to see if a patient is getting large amounts of opioids from different doctors.

Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday shows emergency room hospitalizations for opioid overdoses increased by 30 percent between the third quarters of 2016 and 2017 as opioid addiction continued its rapid spread throughout the population. Opioid overdoses in large central metropolitan areas increased by 54%.

"We don't have to wait until it's too late", Schuchat said. Wisconsin had more than 3,400 ER visits for suspected opioid overdoses during the period studied.

Miller attributed the decline in opioid deaths "to increased awareness about the opioid crisis, as well as an increase in the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses".

To determine trends in opioid overdoses, researchers from the CDC examined ED syndromic and hospital billing data from July 2016 to September 2017.

The researchers found that 142,557 emergency department visits (15.7 per 10,000 visits) were suspected opioid-involved overdoses from July 2016 through September 2017. Emergency room overdoses also jumped 40% in the West, 21% in the Northeast-tied to increases of 105% in DE and 81% in Pennsylvania-20% in the Southwest, and 14% in the Southeast.

The regions particularly hit hard were Wisconsin (108.6 percent), DE (105 percent), Pennsylvania (80.6 percent), and IL (65.5 percent).

For example, overdoses increased 105 percent in DE, compared with 80.6 percent in Pennsylvania and 34 percent in Maine.

However, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are among states showing a decrease in such visits, according to the CDC data.

It isn't clear if that's because those hard-hit states have been devoting resources to tackle the problem for longer and are seeing success, or because their rates were so high that they couldn't get higher, Schuchat said. In Kentucky, which has been hit especially hard by the opioid abuse epidemic, the rate dropped 15 percent, which could reflect fluctuations in drug supply, Schuchat said.

Moreno said he has started conversations with community clinics about beginning medication-assisted treatment in Sinai's ER and then handing patients off for further rehab.

Schuchat and Adams called for expanding the use of naloxone to first responders, community members and overdose victims and their families to prevent opioid overdoses.

"There's a lot more we can do", he said.

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