US Hospitals are Overrun with Opioid Related Issues

by Calum Armstrong

The Washington Post reports that hospitalisations for opioid related issues have increased sharply in recent years.

The US government has this week published new data which reveals that there has been a ’64 percent increase for inpatient care and a 99 percent jump for emergency room treatment compared to figures from 2005′ in regards to opioid related hospitalisations.

The report, released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), puts Maryland at the very top of the national list for inpatient care. The state, already struggling with overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids, has seen the spread of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which can be mixed with heroin or cocaine and is extraordinarily powerful. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) this year declared a state of emergency in response to the crisis.

Fentanyl patch packages. (Wikimedia Commons)

The latest available data is drawn from a report analysing hospitalisations in 2014, and these findings have forced experts to declare an opioid abuse ‘epidemic’ in the US.

Fentanyl has been singled out as a catalyst in the dramatic spike in opioid abuse related hospitalisations. The synthetic opioid can be lethal when mixed with heroin or cocaine, and is a cause in many related drug overdoses. US hospitals are now, in recent years, bearing the brunt of a bonafide ‘coast-to-coast drugs crisis’:

The sharpest increase in hospitalization and emergency room treatment for opioids was among people ages 25 to 44, echoing The Washington Post’s recent reporting that found overall death rates (from any cause) in that age bracket have gone up nationally since 2010 — a phenomenon seen in every racial and ethnic group other than Asian Americans.

Drug overdoses are a major driver of this mortality spike, and opioids, which range from prescription painkillers to heroin and fentanyl, cause the majority of fatal overdoses. In 2015, opioid overdoses killed 33,039 Americans, according to data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last December.

To make matters all the more worrying – if the Republicans proposed healthcare bill is passed, then millions of people currently in opioid treatment will no longer be able to access medical care, according to the DPA:

Healthcare legislation drafted in secret by a small group of Senate Republicans would strip access to opioid treatment and mental health services from millions of people vulnerable to opioid relapse and overdose. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he intends to reveal a draft of the bill on Thursday. Reports indicate it maintains rollbacks of the Medicaid expansion that extended eligibility and coverage for treatment and other health services to millions of low-income people.

Calum Armstrong is Staff Writer and Editor at VolteFace. Tweets @vf_calum

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