Hospital Data Show Sharp Increase in Heroin Overdoses While Prescription Opioid Overdoses Have Declined
Overdoses from heroin and other illicit opioids have accelerated sharply since 2008 while overdoses by prescription opioids have declined since 2010, according to a new AHRQ-funded study in Health Affairs. Researchers used the agency’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data to analyze national trends in hospital inpatient and emergency department (ED) discharges for opioid abuse, dependence and poisoning. Between 2008 and 2014, opioid-related ED discharge rates for heroin overdoses increased by about 31 percent a year, researchers found. Meanwhile, inpatient and ED discharge rates for overdoses by prescription opioids each declined by about 5 percent a year between 2010 and 2014. The authors concluded that further research on prescribing patterns and the indirect costs of heroin’s increased burden on the legal system could guide policies to curb and manage the epidemic. Access the abstract. The research follows a recent AHRQ statistical brief that examined opioid-related hospital trends for prescription opioids and heroin combined. Among other findings, that analysis of patient characteristics showed that hospitalizations involving opioids increased 75 percent for women between 2005 and 2014, significantly outpacing the 55 percent increase among men.