Opioid overdoses jump 30% across US — CDC

Phillip Cunningham
March 7, 2018

Emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 109 percent in Wisconsin from July 2016 to September 2017, the highest spike among 16 states closely tracked, federal health officials said Tuesday.

"Emergency department (ED) visits for opioid overdoses rose 30% in all parts of the United States from July 2016 through September 2017", the CDC said in a press release on Tuesday.

"With the attention that this is getting, it's very disappointing that we're seeing these increases", said Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC Acting Director.

The report found that from July 2016 to September 2017, a total of 142,557 emergency room visits were due to suspected opioid overdoses.

"Opioid overdoses increased for men and women, all age groups, and all regions", said the report.

Opioid overdoses in the U.S. increased by more than 30% in a 14 month period, according to health officials.

The CDC concluded in their report that emergency room data can serve as "an early warning system, alerting communities to changes in prevalence of overdoses and permitting a timely, informed and localized response".

The largest regional increase occurred in the Midwest, which saw a 69.7 percent jump in opioid overdoses, according to the report. 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".

"We needed all the more opportune data", Schuchat says. Substantial increases in overdose rates cut across all categories, including men (30 percent) and women (24 percent), and people aged 25 to 34 (31 percent), 35 to 54 (36 percent), and 55 or older (32 percent). "We're just working to save that person's life in the moment", he says.

The opioid epidemic, which has been the source of innumerable headlines, studies, policy decisions, costs the US more than $500 billion per year, according to some estimates.

In the report, the CDC researchers recommended steps to better respond to drug addiction and overdose, including broader access to the overdose prevention drug naloxone (Narcan) and increased availability of treatment services.

"Research shows that people who have had an overdose are more likely to have another".

STEIN: But some parts of the country are being hit harder than others.

Medication-assisted treatment, combined with counseling and behavioral therapies, should be on offer once an emergency situation has been remedied, the CDC said, even starting the discussion immediately after naloxone takes effect.

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