Study finds stark increase in opioid-related admissions, deaths in nation's ICUs

August 11, 2017
Opioid crisis results in increased number of deaths in ICU from overdoses. Credit: ATS

Since 2009, hospital intensive care units have witnessed a stark increase in opioid-related admissions and deaths, according to new study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's (BIDMC) Center for Healthcare Delivery Science. Published online today ahead of print 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. The findings reveal that opioid-related demand for acute care services has outstripped the available supply.

Analyzing data from the period between January 1, 2009 and September 31, 2015, the researchers documented a 34 percent increase in overdose-related ICU admissions. The average cost of care per ICU overdose admissions rose by 58 percent, from $58,517 in 2009 to $92,408 in 2015 (in 2015 dollars). Meanwhile opioid deaths in the ICU nearly doubled during that same period.

"This study tells us that the opioid epidemic has made people sicker and killed more people, in spite of all the care we can provide in the ICU, including mechanical ventilation, acute dialysis, life support and round-the-clock care," said the study's lead author, Jennifer P. Stevens, MD, associate director of the medical at BIDMC and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Using a national hospital database, Stevens and colleagues analyzed almost 23 million hospital admissions of adult patients in 162 hospitals in 44 states over a seven-year period. Among the more than 4 million patients requiring acute care between 2009 and 2015, the researchers found 21,705 patients who were admitted to ICUs due to opioid overdoses.

The researchers' analysis revealed that opioid-related ICU admissions increased an average of more than half a percent each year over the seven-year study period and that patients admitted to ICUs as a result of overdose required increasingly intensive care, including high-cost renal replacement therapy or dialysis. The mortality rates of these patients climbed at roughly the same rate, on average, with a steeper rise in deaths of patients admitted to the ICU for overdose after 2012.

These data not only document the scope of the epidemic, they also reveal its complexity. Stevens and colleagues suggest that any opioid overdose-related is a preventable one, and that the team's findings not only represent the need for increased acute care resources, but also for expanded opioid-abuse prevention and treatment.

The authors note that the data they analyzed came mainly from urban academic medical centers and may not reflect overdose-related acute care needs in other settings. They add their methodology likely underestimates the burden of opioids on resources by focusing on overdose admissions and not counting those due to complications related to drug use.

"The pace of the opioid epidemic continues to increase," said Stevens. "Those of us who work in units need to make sure we have the tools we need to help with use disorders when they are at their sickest, because there doesn't appear to be any end to this epidemic in sight."

Explore further: ICUs strained by increased volume and a near doubling of opioid-related deaths

Related Stories

ICUs strained by increased volume and a near doubling of opioid-related deaths

May 16, 2016
National trends in opioid related overdoses are being felt across every part of the medical system, including the country's intensive care units. ICU admissions related to opioid overdoses are steadily increasing, and opioid ...

More Australians dying of accidental overdose of pharmaceutical opioids

July 24, 2017
In a reversal of the heroin epidemic of the late 90s and early 2000s, older Australians aged 35 to 54 are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose, a new report reveals.

U.S. opioid crisis continues to worsen

August 8, 2017
(HealthDay)—Drug overdose deaths continue to climb in the United States, despite efforts to combat the nation's ongoing opioid addiction crisis, a new federal report states.

More access to opioid treatment programs needed in Southeast, says study

March 30, 2017
In 2015, more than 30,000 Americans died from overdosing on opioids, and a new study led by the University of Georgia shows that one of the hardest hit populations-low-income Americans on Medicaid-isn't getting the help it ...

Strategies implemented to cut opioid ODs, deaths in maryland

June 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—Strategies are being implemented to reduce opioid overdoses and deaths in Maryland, according to a report published by the American Medical Association (AMA).

Costs of US prescription opioid epidemic estimated at $78.5 billion

September 14, 2016
Prescription opioid overdose, abuse, and dependence carries high costs for American society, with an estimated total economic burden of $78.5 billion, according to a study in the October issue of Medical Care.

Recommended for you

Cancer drugs' high prices not justified by cost of development, study contends

September 12, 2017
(HealthDay)— Excusing the sky-high price tags of many new cancer treatments, pharmaceutical companies often blame high research and development (R&D) costs.

Non-psychotropic cannabinoids show promise for pain relief

September 4, 2017
Some cancers love bone. They thrive in its nutrient-rich environment while gnawing away at the very substrate that sustains them, all the while releasing inflammatory substances that cause pain—pain so severe that opioids ...

Fentanyl drives rise in opioid-linked deaths in U.S.

August 31, 2017
(HealthDay)—Fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic, is a key player in America's continuing epidemic of opioid-related overdose deaths, two new studies report.

Eating triggers endorphin release in the brain

August 28, 2017
Finnish researchers have revealed how eating stimulates brain's endogenous opioid system to signal pleasure and satiety.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

August 21, 2017
That statin you've been taking to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke may one day pull double duty, providing protection against a whole host of infectious diseases, including typhoid fever, chlamydia, and malaria.

Data revealed under FOI shows benefits of multiple sclerosis drug currently blocked by regulators

August 17, 2017
A drug that is blocked by the EU regulatory system has now been found to improve the quality of life of people with multiple sclerosis (MS), according to a study by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.