- Inpatient and emergency room visits for opioid-related issues increased substantially from 2005 to 2014, according to data released Tuesday by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
- ER opioid visits were up by nearly 100% while inpatient visits increased by 64%. Women are now just as likely as men to seek care at a hospital, according to the data.
- The hospital visits varied widely by state. Maryland topped the list at 404 admissions per 100,000 residents while Iowa had a rate just under 73 per 100,000.
The stunning death toll from the opioid crisis, as well as the huge economic implications, have been key to government efforts to combat the epidemic, but this data also shows the impact on hospitals. Emergency rooms are often the front line for treating opioid misuse. More and more EMTs are carrying naloxone to combat overdoses.
Addiction to opioids often begins in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms. Providers are becoming more aware of the dangers of prescribing opioid pain relievers, particularly for chronic conditions. Opioid prescriptions decreased by nearly 17% between 2012 and 2016, and more than 118,000 physicians completed courses on opioid prescribing, pain management, addiction and related areas in 2015 and 2016, according to the American Medical Association’s opioid task force progress report for this year.
However, more than 60% of drug overdose deaths in the country are from opioids, and 91 Americans die every day from their misuse. That number has been increasing dramatically in the past few years, and many who get addicted to prescription opioids are moving on to more dangerous drugs like heroin and fentanyl.
Many experts are worried President Donald Trump’s administration will slash resources for addressing opioid misuse. Trump’s proposed budget includes a 95% cut to the Office of National Drug Policy and eliminates programs such as Drug-Free Communities Support Program. Even the agency that produced the opioid research released Tuesday is on the chopping block.
There has been a shift in which programs are paying for opioid-related hospitalizations. In 1993, Medicaid was billed twice as much as any public or private payer, but by 2012, Medicare and Medicaid were each paying for about one-third of the hospitalizations.
In a blog post, AHRQ Director Richard Kronick said the agency’s research shows important statistics, but doesn’t answer how the epidemic can be slowed. “While these data provide multifaceted evidence that opioid overuse is having a growing impact on our health care system, they can't tell us why these trends are taking place,” he wrote. “What the data can tell us is that it's a problem that needs attention.”