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Overdose-related emergency room visits on the rise

March 8, 2018
by Tom Valentino, Senior Editor
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Emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses across the U.S. increased by 30% from July 2016 through September 2017, according to data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s statistics showed increases in overdose-related hospitalizations in all regions of the country, most states, for both men and women, and in most age groups.

The Midwest experienced the largest increase of any region, at 70% overall, including a 109% increase in Wisconsin, the most sizeable increase of any state.

Among the CDC’s other findings:

  • Overdose-driven emergency room visits among those ages 25-34 increased by 31%. For those ages 35-54, the increase was 36%, and those over the age of 55, emergency room visits for overdoses were up 32%
  • The CDC had state-specific data on 16 states, and 10 saw significant increases in emergency room visits.
  • Close behind Wisconsin’s sharp rise was Delaware’s at 105%. Notably, however, nearby states Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island saw slight decreases, which Acting CDC Director Anne Schuchat, MD, RADM, USPHS, said might possibly be attributed to the implementation of various interventions, including the expansion of medication-assisted treatment.

“Up until now, we have been reporting on the tragic loss of life from overdoses, but for every fatal case, there are many more nonfatal cases, each one with its own emotional and economic toll,” Schuchat said during a Tuesday teleconference. “Research shows that people who have had at least one overdose are more likely to have another. However, if the person is seen in the emergency department, we are presented with an opportunity to take steps toward preventing a repeat overdose, ideally linking an individual to care and potentially preventing an overdose death.”

Recognizing addiction as a chronic disease and not a moral failing, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, VADM, USPHS, said during the conference call that the Trump administration is focused on three priorities in combatting the opioid crisis: saving lives, decreasing supply and decreasing demand. Adams advocated for providing first responders and community members with naloxone, as well as public education campaigns to destigmatize addiction, and also working with healthcare professionals to improve safe prescribing practices.

“There are many ways that different responders can come together to prevent opioid overdoses and deaths,” Adams said during the call. “Health departments are central to a coordinated outreach among many players. They can use this emergency department and other health surveillance data to alert the community and help inform action plans for a timely response.”


The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit is the largest national collaboration of professionals from local, state, and federal agencies, business, academia, clinicians, treatment providers, counselors, educators, state and national leaders, and advocates impacted by prescription drug abuse and heroin use.

April 2-5, 2018 | Atlanta, GA