Overdoses treated in emergency rooms rising in state, nation

Despite efforts on multiple fronts, the nationwide opioid epidemic continues unabated, based on at least one measure.

Hospital emergency department visits for opioid overdoses rose by an average of 30 percent in the United States — and 81 percent in Pennsylvania — for the period covering July 2016 to September 2017, according to a Vital Signs report issued in March by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Emergency departments in the Midwest region of the U.S. showed the biggest impact, registering a 70 percent increase in opioid-related overdoses.

Pennsylvania was among 10 states — the others are Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin — experiencing significant increases in emergency department visits for opioid overdoses from the third quarter of 2016 to the third quarter of 2017.

Overall, the report found that opioid overdoses increased for both sexes and all age groups. Men saw a 30 percent increase; overdoses for women climbed by 24 percent. The age group with the largest increase in overdoses was 35-54, at 36 percent; followed by 55 and over, 32 percent; and 25-34, 31 percent.

And while emergency departments in big cities showed the largest and steadiest increases (54 percent), smaller cities and towns — as well as rural areas — were not immune, showing increases rang-

ing from 21 percent (for the most rural) to 43 percent.

The data is disquieting, but the CDC notes that overdose patients who are seen in hospital emergency departments can present opportunities for treatment that might not be feasible otherwise. People experiencing one overdose have an increased likelihood of having another, and treatment can help avoid repeat overdoses.

“Emergency departments (EDs) can provide naloxone, link patients to treatment and referral services, and provide health departments with critical data on overdoses,” the report states. “ED data provide an early warning system for health departments to identify increases in opioid overdoses more quickly and coordinate response efforts. This fast-moving epidemic does not stay within state and county lines. Coordinated action between EDs, health departments, mental health and treatment providers, community-based organizations, and law enforcement can prevent opioid overdose and death.”

The CDC Vital Signs report describes specific steps that local emergency departments can take to address the increase in opioid overdoses including: “offer naloxone and training to a patient’s family and friends, in case the patient has another overdose; connect patients with hospital case managers or peer navigators to link them to follow-up treatment and services; and plan for the increasing number of patients with opioid-related conditions, including overdose, injection-related concerns and withdrawal.”

The mission statement of Project Bald Eagle: A 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is leading coalition efforts to stem the tide of the heroin epidemic through education, prevention, treatment, enforcement and data monitoring.