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Serious opioid overdoses increased by almost a third during pandemic


By Robert Preidt
Health Day reporter

FRIDAY, July 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Opioid overdose-related visits to U.S. emergency departments increased by nearly a third during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

This is the main finding of a new analysis of data from 25 emergency departments in Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, North Carolina, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“COVID-19, and the disruptions in every part of our social and professional lives, made this situation even more difficult by increasing the risk of opioid abuse and relapse because people were separated from their social support and their normal routines, ”said Molly, lead author of the study. Jeffery, researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The study found that emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses increased 28.5% last year, compared to 2018 and 2019. The study’s raw numbers were 3,486 in 2020; 3,285 in 2019; and 3,020 in 2018.

Researchers have linked opioid overdoses to one in 313 emergency room visits last year, up from one in 400 in the previous two years.

While emergency room visits related to opioid overdoses rose 10.5% last year, overall emergency room visits fell 14%, according to results published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, and recently presented at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting.

Preliminary data recently released by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows more than 93,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2020 – up 29.4% from 2019 and the most on record in a period 12 months in the United States.

“While institutions across the United States are keenly aware that opioid abuse is a major health problem, it shows that there is still work to be done, and it offers an opportunity for institutions and policymakers to expand evidence-based treatments and resources, ”Jeffrey said. in a press release from the clinic.

More than 70% of drug overdose deaths in 2019 involved opioids, according to the CDC, but trends were leveling off before the coronavirus pandemic. However, the data reveals a significant reversal in this trend since the start of the pandemic.

Actual opioid overdose rates may be higher than the study suggests, as the number of people who overdose but do not go to the emergency room is likely on the rise, the researchers noted.

In response to the outbreak, Jeffrey said treatments for opioid addiction such as buprenorphine and methadone, and the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, must be made more accessible.

She also noted that access to telehealth for psychiatric care has increased during the pandemic and has remained high.

“We believe this can be an important way to increase the accessibility of care for many people with opioid abuse disorder or addiction,” said Jeffery.

More information

The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States has more on the opioid crisis.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, press release, July 28, 2021

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