Opioid Overdoses Strain ICUs, Increase Cost of Healthcare

Opioid-related overdoses increased healthcare costs by 46%.

Researchers in a recent study found an extensive strain on intensive care units (ICUs) in the United States caused by opioid overdoses.

The study, which was presented at ATS 2016 International Conference, analyzed data from Vizient, Inc and included 28 million hospital discharges over 7 years. The study showed there was a 42% increase in hospital discharges for opioid overdoses since 2009.

"Pennsylvania and North Carolina have nearly doubled the number of ICU discharges for opioid overdose in the past seven years," said lead investigator Jennifer Stevens, MD. "This suggests that there may be an opportunity for hospitals and communities in these states to get ahead of the critical care needs of this population and to help first-line responders prevent future admissions to the ICU."

Researchers said the findings in this study can be seen as a warning sign. Although there are treatment centers and medications, such as Naloxone, that can reverse the effects of an overdose, there has been an increase of overdose patients who need extensive care.

These patients are 30% more likely to need acute dialysis, according to the study. Over the last 7 years, researchers found that very sick overdose patients increased healthcare costs by 46%.

"Hospitals that are seeing rising volumes of overdose and opioid-dependent admissions can help by increasing training for clinicians in addiction management, and by working to devise strategies that support patients and families in the hospital, and as they transition loved ones from the critical care environment to outpatient addiction treatment," concluded co-author Michael Howell, MD, MPH. "Greater national funding to support community efforts that help survivors and improve resources for patients and families is essential for these efforts to move forward and succeed."