Opioid overdoses increasing in US

Brandon Parsons
March 7, 2018

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention brings more bad news for the nation's continued fight against the opioid epidemic. "This data sends a wake up call about the need to improve what happens when patients leave the emergency department".

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in the past year opioid overdose rates increased across the United States by 30 percent overall, with a 70 percent increase in areas of the Midwest hard hit by the opioid crisis.

The report said its findings "suggest a worsening of the epidemic into late 2017 in several states, possibly related to the wide variation in the availability and potency of illicit drug products (e.g., fentanyl sold as or mixed into heroin) that increase overdose risk and drive increases in mortality".

"Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses", said a press statement from CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat.

SCHUCHAT: We saw sadly that in every region, in every age group of adults, in both men and women, overdoses from opioids are increasing. Researchers said overdose rates in that system increased about 30% in all regions and most states.

Wisconsin had the biggest increase, 109 percent, and DE saw a 105 percent increase.

Though the report was overall a somber reminder of the devastating effects of opioid addiction, there were a few hopeful findings.

People who experience opioid overdoses are more likely to experience another overdose in the future and return to the emergency room, the CDC said. Overdoses may have actually slightly decreased in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.

"We needed all the more opportune data", Schuchat says. "More Americans are dying each day from opioid overdoses, in every community across the nation". Overdoses are often associated with rural America but metropolitan areas with 1 million or more people saw the steepest increase, at 54%. "We think emergency departments are essential hubs in this fast-moving epidemic".

The likelihood of repeated overdoses could be reduced through medication-assisted treatment, it added.

Support programs that reduce harms which can occur when injecting opioids, including those that offer screening for HIV and hepatitis B and C, in combination with referral to treatment.

The CDC's guidance went a step further than education, encouraging community members to 'connect with organizations in the community that provide public health services, treatment, counseling, and naloxone distribution'.

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