Opioid Overdoses Treated in Emergency Departments

Identify opportunities for action

Overview

Emergency department (ED) visits for opioid* overdoses rose 30% in all parts of the US from July 2016 through September 2017. People who have had an overdose are more likely to have another, so being seen in the ED is an opportunity for action. Repeat overdoses may be prevented with medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD), which is defined as a problematic pattern of opioid use. EDs can provide naloxone, link patients to treatment and referral services, and provide health departments with critical data on overdoses. ED data provide an early warning system for health departments to identify increases in opioid overdoses more quickly and coordinate response efforts. This fast-moving epidemic does not stay within state and county lines. Coordinated action between EDs, health departments, mental health and treatment providers, community-based organizations, and law enforcement can prevent opioid overdose and death.

30% Opioid overdoses went up 30% from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.

70% The Midwestern region witnessed opioid overdoses increase 70% from July 2016 through September 2017.

54% Opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54% in 16 states.

Health departments can:

  • Alert communities to rapid increases in overdoses seen in EDs for an informed and timely response.
  • Increase naloxone distribution (an overdose-reversing drug) to first responders, family and friends, and other community members in affected areas, as policies permit.
  • Increase availability of and access to treatment services, including mental health services and MAT for OUD.
  • Support programs which reduce harms from injecting opioids, including those offering screening for HIV and hepatitis B and C, in combination with referral to treatment.
  • Support the use of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which encourages using prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to inform clinical practice. https://go.usa.gov/xn6uQExternal

*Opioids include prescription pain medications, heroin, and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

Pregnant wowan
Problem

Opioid overdose ED visits continued to rise from 2016 to 2017.

From July 2016 through September 2017, opioid overdoses increased for:

  • Men (↑30%) and women (↑24%)
  • People ages 25-34 (↑ 31%), 35-54 (↑36%), and 55 and over (↑32%)
  • Most states (↑ 30% average), especially in the Midwest (↑70% average)

SOURCE: CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program, 52 jurisdictions in 45 states reporting.

 

Graphic: Opioid overdoses continued to increase in cities and towns of all types.

View large image and text description

Detecting recent trends in opioid overdose ED visits provides opportunities for action in this fast-moving epidemic.

View large image and text description

What Can Be Done

The Federal Government is:

  • Tracking overdose trends to better understand and more quickly respond to the opioid overdose epidemic.
  • Improving access to OUD treatment, such as MAT, and overdose-reversing drugs, such as naloxone.
  • Educating healthcare providers and the public about OUD and opioid overdose, and providing guidance on safe and effective pain management.
  • Equipping states with resources to implement and evaluate safe prescribing practices.
  • Coordinating actions to reduce production and impacts of the illicit opioid supply in the US through the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program.
  • Supporting cutting-edge research to improve pain management and OUD treatment.

Health Departments can:

  • Alert communities to rapid increases in overdoses seen in EDs for an informed and timely response.
  • Increase naloxone distribution (an overdose-reversing drug) to first responders, family and friends, and other community members in affected areas, as policies permit.
  • Increase availability of and access to treatment services, including mental health services and MAT for OUD.
  • Support programs that reduce harms which can occur when injecting opioids, including those offering screening for HIV and hepatitis B and C, in combination with referral to treatment.
  • Support the use of the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which encourages using prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to inform clinical practice. https://go.usa.gov/xn6uQExternal

Emergency Departments can:

  • Develop post-opioid overdose protocols, which may include
    • Offering overdose prevention education, naloxone, and related training for patients, family members, and friends.
    • Linking patients to treatment and services in the community as needed.
    • Starting MAT in the ED

Healthcare Providers can:

  • Prescribe opioids only when benefits are likely to outweigh risks.
  • Determine a patient’s prescription drug history and level of risk by accessing data from their state PDMP.
  • Identify mental health, social services, and treatment options to provide appropriate care for patients who have OUD.
  • Follow the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. https://go.usa.gov/xn6uQExternal

Everyone can:

Issue Details

Related Pages

Other Sites

Science Behind the Issue

Page last reviewed: March 16, 2018