Bacterial infections linked to $1B in hospitalizations for New Jersey drug users

Bacterial infections associated with injectable drugs resulted in more than $1 billion in hospital charges in 2019 in New Jersey, Gothamist reported Nov. 2.

A new report, published by the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition, analyzed emergency visit numbers and hospitalization data from the New Jersey State Emergency Department Database and the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Researchers found bacterial infections associated with injectable drugs led to 1,967 emergency room visits and 7,310 inpatient hospital stays in New Jersey during 2019. Those charges, which amounted to more than $1 billion, were often covered by public funds through Medicaid or Medicare.

The infections were often caused due to a lack of sterile needles, skin disinfectants and other safer injection supplies, according to the report. 

The coalition made the following recommendations for preventing these types of bacterial infections:

  • Train medical providers on how to properly treat drug users and reduce stigma.

  • States should invest in programs, such as syringe exchanges, that prevent these infections.

  • Support harm reduction programs that include safer snorting and smoking supplies as risk-reduction strategies.

  • Add injection-related bacterial infection morbidity and mortality indicators to state-reporting dashboards.

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