Jump In Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Emergency rooms around the country saw a spike in patients overdosing on opioids past year, according to data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released Tuesday.

The most recent numbers available show no signs of slowing down for the US opioid epidemic, with emergency room visits increasing through 2017 in most states, especially in the Midwest, and across all age groups, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

The ER data show trends in the opioid abuse epidemic before deaths do, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the study. It's not that more people are abusing drugs, it's the kind of drugs they're using.

The data also highlight the need to enhance mental health services, medication-assisted treatment for addiction and distribution of naloxone, the overdose-reversing drug, Schuchat said.

The study was conducted using data from hospitals in 16 different states including North Carolina, which reported a 31 percent increase.

The St. Tammany's Coroner's office released 2017 data in early February reporting a total of 74 drug overdose-related deaths, increasing from 58 the year before.

Midwestern states increased the most dramatically, with a 70% jump fueled by a doubling (109% increase) of overdose ED visits in Wisconsin. "We're just working to save that person's life in the moment", he says.

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Drawing on overdose data from 45 states between July 2016 and September 2017, CDC officials said ER visits for opioid overdoses rose in every region of the country, with the Midwest seeing the largest spike.

Overdoses on opioids (prescription painkillers or street drugs laced with heroin or fentanyl) are on the rise for men and women across all age groups and regions.

The state of Kentucky saw a significant decrease of overdose rates, at 15 percent. In Wisconsin, visits spiked 107 percent between July 2016 and September 2017, compared with 105 percent in DE, and 81 percent in Pennsylvania, with by far the largest population of the three.

More babies are born dependent on opioids, but does Pennsylvania know the real scope of this crisis?

Other major outbreaks of overdoses included a 105 percent increase in DE, an 81 percent increase in Pennsylvania, and a 34 percent increase in Maine.

SCHUCHAT: We think that the number of people addicted to opioids is relatively stable, but the substances are more risky than, you know, five years ago.

STEIN: Kolodny says the nation needs billions of dollars to provide treatment for the millions of Americans struggling with their addiction. The surgeon general, Jerome Adams, said: "Addiction is a chronic disease, and not a moral failing".

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