The latest government numbers on opioid-related hospitalizations paint a picture of a country in a drug-related crisis.
Between 2005 to 2014, emergency room visits stemming from opioid use rose 99 percent and inpatient stays jumped 64 percent, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
In 2014 alone, opioid-related hospitalizations totaled 1.27 million.
The spike in hospital visits was driven largely by people ages 25 to 44. The report by the Rockville, Maryland-based agency also noted gender differences in the way men and women used hospital services.
Women were more likely to have inpatient stays, while men were more likely to visit the ER in 2014.
“Our data tell us what is going on. They tell us what the facts are. But they don’t give us the underlying reasons for what we’re seeing here,” Anne Elixhauser, co-author of the report and senior research scientist at AHRQ, told the Washington Post.
“It is no surprise that opioid-related hospitalizations rose significantly during that time period,” Dr. Peter Friedmann, associate dean for research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and chief research officer at the nonprofit Baystate Health, told HuffPost.
“The surge of opioid use disorder and opioid-related overdose deaths that started in the late ’90s continues unabated in most of the U.S. Overdose deaths are the tip of the iceberg,” Friedmann said.
Opioid complications can include overdose, delirium, respiratory suppression and infection.
“Intravenous injection leaves an individual susceptible to transmittable infectious diseases or acute serious infections,” Matthew Ronan, a hospitalist in Boston who published a study on opioid-related hospitalizations and infection last year in the journal Health Affairs told HuffPost. “These conditions often lead to hospitalizations.”
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published in June found that between 2010 to 2015, North Carolina hospitals saw a 12-fold increase in patients suffering from endocarditis, an infection of the heart, that was linked to drug dependence
“As the U.S. opioid epidemic continues to grow, hospitalizations for infectious complications associated with injection drug use are likely to increase,” the report said.
The AHRQ report follows a New York Times Upshot analysis of data from health agencies around the country that estimated drug overdose deaths will top 59,000 in 2016. That’s up from 52,404 overdose deaths in 2015, a 19 percent increase that would be the largest such jump in U.S. history.
According to the Times, the numbers are expected to rise again in 2017.
The story has been updated to include additional information about the infection risk of intravenous drug use.