Jump In Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened

Opioid overdoses seen in hospital emergency rooms are way up. Timely treatment with naloxone can reverse the effects of opioids

Emergency department visits for opioid overdoses increased 31 percent in North Carolina from July 2016 through September 2017, according to a new study released Tuesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"This fast-moving epidemic affects both men and women, and people of every age", said Anne Schuchat, the CDC's acting director.

Every state in the Midwest region experienced large increases: Wisconsin (109 percent), IL (66 percent), in (35 percent), OH (28 percent) and Missouri (21 percent). The largest increases in ER visits from opioid overdoses were seen in the West, Southwest and Midwest with 7 to 11 percent increases per quarter.

The analysis was based on about 91 million emergency room visits that occurred between July 2016 and September 2017, including 142,557 visits that were suspected opioid overdoses.

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Nationally, ER visits for suspected opioid overdoses went up for all regions, all age groups, men and women.

The rate rose most in the Midwest - 70 percent, including a 65 percent hike in IL. In the U.S. in 2016, illicit and prescription drug overdoses killed 64,000 people. It's unclear, Schuchat said in a press call Tuesday afternoon, whether those states - which have been dealing with the opioid crisis longer and generally have more programs in place to prevent overdoses - are seeing the beginning of a persistent decline or simply a "statistical fluctuation".

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"We wanted more timely information", Schuchat says. Because research shows that having one overdose is a good predictor of having another, the data presents an opportunity for targeting prevention efforts-like giving overdose reversal drug naloxone to family members and guiding the overdose victim to treatment-say CDC researchers in an accompanying commentary.

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At the start of the opioid epidemic, USA policy focused on stemming the flow of prescription opioids from doctors and pharmacies, Miller said.

Overdoses increased in all five regions of the USA, and in every demographic. It's not that more people are abusing drugs, it's the kind of drugs they're using.

The report also encouraged the broadened availability and use of medication-assisted treatment, such as methadone, naltrexone or buprenorphine, to help people with opioid use disorder, as well as peer navigators who can help a person if they are ready to seek treatment but don't know how or where to look.

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