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Opioid overdose study from Beth Israel Deaconess researchers spotlights crushing burden on hospitals

Researchers used a national hospital database and evaluated almost 23 million adult hospital admissions in 162 hospitals across 44 states.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

A new study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston shows that demand for opioid-related hospital services is having a crushing effect on providers and hospitals resources, with hospitals intensive care units seeing a stunning increase in opioid-related admissions.

Published Friday in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society, the study is believed to be the first to quantify the impact of opioid abuse on critical care resources in the United States, Beth Israel said.

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Researchers used a national hospital database and evaluated almost 23 million adult hospital admissions in 162 hospitals across 44 states. Of the more than 4 million patients requiring acute care between 2009 and 2015, they found 21,705 patients were admitted to ICUs for opioid overdoses, a 34 percent increase. Average care costs for such episodes spiked 58 percent, from $58,517 in 2009 to $92,408 in 2015.

ICU Opioid deaths almost doubled during that same period, researchers said.

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Moreover, the rate of overdose patients rose half a percent each year over the study period and those overdose patients admitted to ICUs needed more intensive care, including high-cost renal replacement therapy or dialysis. Their mortality rates rose at about the same rate, with an even sharper increase in deaths of overdose patients admitted to the ICU after 2012.

The authors note that data came mostly from "urban academic medical centers" and might not reflect other settings. They said the study does not take into account admissions due to complications related to drug use.

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"These data not only document the scope of the opioid abuse epidemic, they also reveal its complexity...the team's findings not only represent the need for increased acute care resources, but also for expanded opioid-abuse prevention and treatment."

Twitter: @BethJSanborn

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