(CNN) — The opioid epidemic in the United States shows no signs of slowing, according to a Vital Signs report released Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report found that emergency department visits due to suspected opioid overdoses continued to climb — about 30% — from July 2016 to September 2017 across the country.
“The increases in overdoses were seen in adults of all age groups. They were seen in men and women. They were seen in every geographic region in the nation,” she said.
The findings in the report could help identify and track overdoses in a way that helps the development of responses from both the medical community and law enforcement agencies, Schuchat said.
Based on the report, some emergency departments could enhance prevention and treatment and improve efforts to connect patients with resources to help prevent future overdoses.
“We really think that this is a wake-up call for all of us — that the opioid epidemic is in all of our communities and that there’s more that we need to do,” Schuchat said.
Potential for misuse
US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said Tuesday that the country’s opioid epidemic hits particularly close to home.
“My younger brother has struggled with addiction for decades, and I often think about the fact that it could have been me,” he said. “My whole family, like many other families in America, have experienced a similar story and over the years have witnessed firsthand the pain that comes from opioid use disorder, which is commonly referred to as addiction.”
Opioids are a class of drugs used to reduce pain, and they have the potential to be misused. Prescription opioids can be prescribed by doctors and include oxycodone or OxyContin, hydrocodone or Vicodin, and morphine.
Pharmaceutical fentanyl is an opiate drug that is about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and it is usually administered to patients who are in severe pain through injection, a patch or a lozenge.
Most of the fentanyl that people buy on the street, however, doesn’t come from pharmacies or hospitals. Rather, much of it is illegally made in clandestine labs as chemical variations of legal fentanyl.
The new report included data on emergency department visits from July 2016 to September 2017 from the CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance and Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance programs.
The data showed that among about 91 million emergency department visits identified in the National Syndromic Surveillance Program, which includes 45 states, a total of 142,557 were suspected opioid overdoses.
Those visits increased 29.7% from July 2016 to September 2017, but the CDC researchers found that there were some regional differences, too.
The Midwest had the largest increase of prevalence, at 69.7%; followed by the West, at 40.3%; Northeast, at 21.3%; Southwest, at 20.2%; and Southeast at 14%, the data showed.
Among about 45 million emergency department visits identified in the Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance Program, which includes 16 states, a total of 119,198 were suspected opioid overdoses.
Those visits increased 34.5% from July 2016 to September 2017, the researchers found, and 10 states experienced significant increases in prevalence during that time period.
Wisconsin had the largest increase, 108.6%, and Delaware had the second largest, 105%. Pennsylvania saw a 80.6% increase, Illinois saw a 65.5% increase, Indiana saw a 35.1% increase, Maine saw a 34% increase, North Carolina saw a 31.1% increase, Ohio saw a 27.7% increase, and Missouri saw a 21.4% increase. In the West, Nevada saw a 17.9% increase, and New Mexico saw a 8.3% increase.
Meanwhile, a significant decrease occurred in Kentucky: 15%. New Hampshire saw a 7.1% decrease, and a non-significant 5.3% decrease was observed in West Virginia. It is unclear whether those decreases are true declines or merely statistical fluctuations, Schuchat said.
The researchers noted that the increases in the Midwest were consistent with trends in previously reported opioid overdose deaths. Yet the increases in the Southwest and West and the decreases in the Southeast were unanticipated. Those findings might foreshadow death trends to come, they noted.
“Research shows that people who have had an overdose are more likely to have another. Emergency department education and post-overdose protocols, including providing naloxone and linking people to treatment, are critical needs,” Alana Vivolo-Kantor, first author of the report and a behavioral scientist in the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a statement Tuesday.
The drug naloxone can reverse opioid overdose. Based on research presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians’ annual conference last year, naloxone was found to be successful in stopping overdose 93% of the time.
“Data on opioid overdoses treated in emergency departments can inform timely, strategic, and coordinated response efforts in the community as well,” Vivolo-Kantor said.