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U.S. Opioid Deaths Nearly Doubled Since 2009

From TIME - August 29, 2017

Deaths from opioid overdoses nearly doubled between 2009 and 2015 in the United States, according to a new study in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, and the need for emergency care related to opiate addiction have outstripped the available supply.

The paper is believed to be the first to quantify the impact of opioid abuse on critical care resources across the country. For the study, researchers from Harvard Medical School, the University of Chicago, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev analyzed nearly 23 million hospital admissions over a seven year period, at 162 hospitals in 44 states.

Almost 22,000 patients were admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) because of overdose from opioidsincluding prescription medications, methadone (which can be used to treat opiate addiction) or heroin. From 2009 to 2015, the number of opioid-related ICU admissions increased by 34%.

Read more: White House Opioid Crisis Commission Tells Trump: Declare a National Emergency

Massachusetts and Indiana had the highest overall rates of opioid-related ICU admissions in the country over those seven years total, while Pennsylvania experienced the sharpest increase in opioid admission rates over that time. Illinois, California, New York, and Indiana also experienced significantly increased admission rates due to opioids.

During that same period, the number of ICU patients who died from opioid-related causes nearly doubled. The death rate rose at roughly the same rate per month throughout the study period, but climbed higher beginning in 2012. In other studies, the researchers note, similar increases have been linked to more prescriptions being written for painkillerswhich may lead to more addiction and overdoses in the following years.

Read more: Most People Who Misuse Opioids Dont Have a Prescription

The average cost of treating each person admitted to the ICU for an overdose also rose from $54,517 to $92,408 over those seven yearsan increase of 58%. Much of that rise came from expensive treatments like dialysis to treat kidneys damaged by the opioids.

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