Inpatient mortality for opioid-related hospitalizations sees fourfold increase since 90s

Inpatient mortality among individuals hospitalized for opioid misuse increased fourfold from the 1990s to 2014, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers analyzed hospitalization data compiled in the nation's largest all-payer inpatient database from 1993 through 2014. Among the data, researchers identified 384,611 opioid-related hospitalizations.

The mortality rate for these patients fluctuated little before 2000. Researchers established a composite average death rate for 1993 to 2000. In that time period, an average of 0.43 percent of patients hospitalized for opioid-related causes died in the hospital. By 2014, the rate had increased to 2.02 percent, or 20.2 deaths per thousand admissions.

The researchers identified three possible causes for rising mortality rates among these patients: the increasing availability of highly potent synthetic opioids like fentanyl; the rising rates of heroin use, which have coincided with prescription opioid prices increases; and more instances of first responders treating less severe cases of opioid poisoning in the field, leaving the more severe cases to be treated in the hospital setting.

"Until community-based efforts to tackle opioid misuse have taken root, treating opioid addiction and better equipping hospitals to care for patients with increasingly severe opioid abuse may help the healthcare system combat the rising mortality rates of patients hospitalized for opioid use disorders," concluded the study's authors.

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