Mortality Rates Rise Among Opioid-Driven Hospitalizations

December 7, 2017

A study by health care policy assistant professor Zirui Song, MD, PhD, published in Health Affairs shows a rise in death rates among opioid-driven hospitalizations in the US from 2000-2014.

More than 64,000 drug overdose deaths were estimated to have occurred in 2016, including over 15,000 deaths from heroin and over 20,000 from synthetic opioids. Around 7,000 people are treated in US emergency departments for opioid misuse every day.

While the rate of opioid-related hospitalizations, as defined using the primary diagnosis code, has remained relatively unchanged, the type of diagnosis has shifted from dependence or abuse to opioid poisoning or heroin poisoning. The fastest growing share of patients admitted for opioid or heroin poisoning were white Medicare beneficiaries ages 50-64 with disabilities that resided in low-income areas.

This study stresses the importance of increased efforts to support hospitals in responding to opioid misuse and intoxication. The full study can be viewed on the Health Affairs website.