The coast-to-coast opioid epidemic is swamping hospitals, with new government data showing 1.27 million emergency room visits or inpatient stays for opioid-related issues in a single year, the Washington Post reports. The 2014 numbers, the latest available for every state and the District of Columbia, reflect a 64 percent increase for inpatient care and a 99 percent jump for emergency room treatment compared with figures from 2005. Their trajectory likely will keep climbing if the epidemic continues unabated. The report, released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), puts Maryland at the top of the national list for inpatient care.
The state, already struggling with overdoses from heroin and prescription opioids, has seen the spread of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which can be mixed with heroin or cocaine and is extraordinarily powerful. Gov. Larry Hogan this year declared a state of emergency in response to the crisis. A state report this month showed that opioid-related deaths in Maryland had nearly quadrupled since 2010, and deaths from fentanyl had increased 38-fold in the past decade. “We see overdoses in all ethnic groups, in all Zip codes,” said Leana Wen, Baltimore’s health commissioner. Wen made naloxone, the overdose-reversal medication, available over-the-counter at pharmacies, and she urged residents to obtain it. She said the new numbers showing the surge in hospital visits was not surprising and noted that many people who show up seeking treatment for addiction cannot receive it immediately.