INDIANAPOLIS — Emergency rooms in five Midwest states, including Indiana, saw visits for suspected opioid overdoses increase by nearly 70 percent from July 2016 to September 2017, according to a study released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Indiana the rate increased 35 percent in that time period, more so than in Ohio or Missouri, but less than in Illinois or Wisconsin, which saw rates of increase of 65 and 109 percent, respectively.
The increases, which occurred across demographic groups and geographic regions, “suggest a worsening of the epidemic into late 2017 in several states” possibly driven by highly potent fentanyl becoming available, the study says.
Nationwide from 2015 to 2016, emergency rooms saw a nearly 30 percent in increase in suspected opioid overdoses, according to the study in the CDCs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Overdose deaths increased 21 percent in 2016, to a total of 63,632, the study found.
From 2016 to 2017, the study identified 142,557 visits to emergency rooms in 45 states suspected to be for opioid overdoses. That same time period saw a total of 91 million emergency department visits, according to CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat.
The study recommends that emergency room data be used as an “early warning system” to alert communities when a rash of overdoses occur, so that first responders can be sure to have sufficient stores of naloxone on hand.
CDC officials said that such emergency room data offers an opportunity to intervene in the life of a person with a substance use disorder.
“Up until now, we have been reporting on the tragic loss of life from overdoses, but for every fatal case, there are many more nonfatal cases, each one with its own emotional and economic toll,” Schuchat said in a press call on Tuesday. “If the person is seen in the emergency department, we are presented with an opportunity to take steps toward preventing a repeat overdose, ideally linking an individual to care and potentially preventing an overdose death.”
Eskenazi Health’s Project Point does just that, reaching out to those who have overdosed, offering to connect them to services to help them shed their addiction.
Many of those brought to the emergency room with an opioid overdose are repeat visitors, according to Project Point data.
About 20 percent of those treated by Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services or in the hospital have received naloxone in the past. Those who receive naloxone on multiple occasions have a 65 percent increase in their risk of death.