The soaring epidemic of heroin and prescription overdoses has led to thousands of inpatient admissions across Pennsylvania, socking urban and rural hospitals with robust surges in case rates, a state agency has found. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says clinicians handled 1,848 inpatient hospitalizations in 2014 for overdoses of heroin and pain medication, a near tripling of the statewide numbers in 2000, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council said. The sharpest increase emerged among heroin overdose patients in rural counties, where hospitalizations jumped 315 percent, says a new report. By comparison, urban areas logged a 143 percent bump in the same category.
“No one knows the reason” for that discrepancy, said Christina Mair, a University of Pittsburgh faculty member who is studying rural overdose patterns. She said Pennsylvania “certainly [ranks] in the top 10 worst states in the country in terms of the rates of overdose and dependence.” The report should help researchers analyze the trends through regional and historic breakdowns often lacking in death counts from the epidemic, Mair said. The new assessment uses hospital discharge data to tally overdoses among Pennsylvanians at least 15 years old who were admitted to general acute-care facilities, but it leaves out other cases.