Opioid overdoses straining hospital ERs

November 4, 2014

Prescription painkillers were involved in nearly 70% of the opioid-related overdoses treated at hospital emergency rooms in 2010, according to a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Prescription painkillers were involved in nearly 70% of the opioid-related overdoses treated at hospital emergency rooms in 2010, according to a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study was conducted by researchers from Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown University, and Rush Medical College. It evaluated data from a nationwide sample and created estimates based on that data. 

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The study found that prescriptions painkillers were involved in 68% of opioid-related overdoses (92,200 hospital visits) and treating those patients cost an estimated $1.4 billion. Less than 2% of the overdoses were fatal, but patients in more than half the cases were hospitalized.

“Further efforts to stem the prescription opioid overdose epidemic are urgently needed,” researchers wrote.

 

According to the study, about 41% of the patients who went to a hospital after overdosing on prescription painkillers were treated and released without being admitted; 55% were admitted to the hospital; and 4% were transferred to an acute care hospital.

The average hospital stay for those who were admitted was 3.8 days, and their treatment cost an average of $29,497 each. The average cost for those patients treated in the emergency room and then released was $3,640.