Hospitalizations related to opioid abuse and dependence have increased by 67% from 2002 to 2012, according to a recent study by two Harvard Medical School instructors. In addition, inpatient charges for these hospitalizations more than doubled during the same time period, according to the study, solidifying the need for prevention and education regarding abuse of opioid drugs.
“Our results characterize the financial burden on the healthcare system related to opioid abuse/dependence and one of the more serious downstream complications of this epidemic: serious infection,” authors Matthew V. Ronan and Shoshana J. Herzig wrote in the May 2016 issue of Health Affairs.
The study, using a national sample, showed hospitalizations related to the use and dependence on opioids grew from about 302,000 in 2002 to about 520,000 in 2012. The number of hospitalized patients who had serious infections related to opioid abuse increased from 3,400 to 6,535 during the same time period, according to the study.
Those numbers are likely higher now, as opioid abuse continues to grow, Ronan, the study’s primary author, said in a May 2 article published by Kaiser Health.
The United States is in the midst of an opioid overdose epidemic, according to the CDC. Opioid overdoses killed more than 28,000 Americans in 2014, with more than half of the deaths attributed to drugs prescribed by physicians, based on CDC’s latest statistics.
Treating patients with opioid abuse and dependence has become more expensive to treat, with hospitals charging almost $15 billion in 2012 for opioid-related inpatient care — more than double what they billed in 2002, according to the Kaiser Health article. Many of the patients were uninsured or on Medicaid, the article’s author Shefali Luthra wrote.
In the article, Wilson Compton, deputy director of the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse, said the study shows opioid abuse is not only a public health matter, but also one of public cost.
“It’s tax dollars going to address this issue,” Compton said in the article. “By treating it more effectively and helping prevent these cases, we might be able to save money for all of us.”
At the end of March, President Barack Obama announced new initiatives beyond a $1.1 billion initiative he proposed in February, to expand addiction treatment and increase coverage for mental health and substance abuse services, according to a CNN article. Treatment includes behavioral and drug therapy.
For more information, review our continuing education module, “Responsible opioid prescribing.”
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