Researchers report that the hospital costs of treating people suffering from opiate overdoses are becoming increasingly expensive as patients are brought into the intensive-care units (ICU) in dire need of medical assistance.
Unsurprisingly, the number of overdose-related admissions to the ICU has dramatically risen over the past few years – Pennsylvania alone has seen their admission rate nearly double since 2009. According to data from 44 states, heroin is one of the most dangerous challenges doctors face, with the mortality rate reportedly tripled since 2009 while the mortality rate from overdoses caused by prescription painkillers has stayed somewhat steady. This has helped fuel a three percent increase of overdose deaths of people admitted to the ICU over the course of the study, from seven percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2015. These figures could be even deadlier today now that fentanyl and other far more potent drugs have hit the street.
Naloxone, an emergency overdose-reversal medication, has proved to be an incredibly useful tool for first responders, but there’s only so much medication can do when the victim stops breathing, even for just a few minutes. Approximately eight percent of overdose victims admitted to the ICU suffered brain damage caused by this, and approximately 25 percent has aspiration pneumonia which is a lung infection caused by inhaling vomit, liquid, or food. These factors increased the average length of stay for patients from seven days to 10 and boosted the cost of care from $58,517 to $92,408 between 2009 and 2015.
In their study, researchers wrote that,
“We would propose that any admission to the ICU for opiate overdoses are a preventable admission.” They added that the “findings represent a growing and urgent call for additional critical care resources and expanded primary prevention strategies.”
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