Trends in emergency department visits for suspected opioid overdoses

New data from U.S. emergency departments (EDs) reveal that the opioid epidemic continues to spread, according to the latest CDC Vital Signs report.

Among about 91 million ED visits captured in CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) during July 2016–September 2017, there were a total of 142,557 suspected opioid overdoses. Opioid overdose ED visits in NSSP rose 29.7% from third-quarter 2016 to third-quarter 2017. Data from 16 states in CDC’s Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance (ESOOS) program show that opioid overdose ED visits rose 34.5% during that time period.

Overall, all five U.S. regions saw prevalence increases, with the largest in the Midwest (69.7%), followed by the West, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast.

In addition, substantial increases were seen in all demographic groups, including for men, women, individuals aged 25–34 years, 35–54 years, and 55 years and older. All urbanization levels experienced large and significant increases in ED opioid overdose visits from third-quarter 2016 to third-quarter 2017, with the highest rate increases (54%) in large central metropolitan areas.

The researchers note that ED data can serve as an early warning system for communities. Given that increases in opioid overdoses varied by region and urbanization level, there is a need for localized responses. “Educating ED physicians and staff members about appropriate services for immediate care and treatment and implementing a post-overdose protocol that includes naloxone provision and linking persons into treatment could assist EDs with preventing overdose,” they conclude.

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Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (03/06/18) Vol. 67 Vivolo-Kantor, Alana M.; Seth, Puja; Gladden, R. Matthew; et al.

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