ER visits for suspected opioid overdoses shot up last year by 30%, Midwest increased 70%

Emergency visits for suspected opioid overdoses shot up 30 percent from the third quarter of 2016 to third quarter 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

During a briefing of the latest Vital Signs report, CDC's Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat said overall the most dramatic increases were in the Midwest, where emergency visits went up 70 percent in all ages over 25. 

ER visits for opioid-related emergencies more than doubled in two states. Wisconsin saw the biggest increase, 109 percent, and Delaware saw a 105 percent increase. In Pennsylvania, ER visits were up 81 percent.  

“We’re seeing the highest ever death rates in the U.S.,” Schuchat  said. She pointed to national statistics that out of 63,000 overdose deaths in 2016, 42,000 of them involved opioids.

"[This] means 115 people die each day from opioid overdose,” she said.

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There were some decreases reported in the East, with the largest being a 15 percent reduction in Kentucky, which could reflect fluctuation in drug supplies or interventions. 

However, hospital visits in cities of all types increased steadily in each quarter by 51 percent. Dr. Schuchat emphasized, “Bottom line — no area of the U.S. is exempt from this epidemic.”

U.S. Surgeon General James Adams was also present during the briefing, and mentioned how he witnessed first-hand his own young brother’s struggle with opioid addiction.

“Science is clear: Addiction is a chronic disease and not a moral failing,” the doctor said.

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Dr. Adams outlined that a coordinated effort is necessary to prevent opioid addiction. “To successfully combat this epidemic, everyone must play a role,” he noted.  

The Surgeon General explained how health departments, along with public safety and law enforcement officials, have to work together to deal with local opioid-related emergencies. 

He stressed the need to make naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an overdose, more accessible in emergency situations.