Opioid abuse heightens risk of death from sepsis

People who abuse opioids are more likely to be hospitalized for sepsis and die, even if they are young and otherwise healthy, according to new research.

Researchers analyzed 6.7 million U.S. hospital records between 2009 and 2015 for the study.

They found 375,479 patients had sepsis, 164,891 had opioid use disorder and 11,861 had both.

They also found that patients with opioid use disorder were more likely to have sepsis — 7.2 percent of patients with opioid use disorder had sepsis, compared to 5.6 percent of patients who did not have opioid use disorder.

Patients with opioid use disorder who had sepsis were more likely to be younger and healthier than those who did not have opioid use disorder. And patients with opioid use disorder accounted for 2.1 percent of deaths among those hospitalized with sepsis.

"In combating the opioid crisis, public health officials should also raise awareness with both
patients and providers about the risk of death due to sepsis," said Mohammad Alrawashdeh, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute in Boston.

The research was presented at the Society of Critical Care Medicine's 49th Critical Care Congress, Feb. 16-19 in Orlando, Fla.

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