Preliminary research presented today at APHA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo examined the trend in hospitalizations from opioid poisonings in West Virginia, a state heavily impacted by the current opioid overdose crisis.
Researchers with West Virginia University used data from Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Integrated Data Repository electronic medical records to examine the rate of opioid poisonings resulting in hospitalization They found that overall opioid poisonings rates increased significantly from 2008 to 2015 among all age groups. Individuals ranging between 18 and 34 years had the highest increase in poisonings, attributed to both heroin and prescription opioids. According to data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, after the prescription drug monitoring program was mandated for the state of West Virginia in 2012 there was a notable decrease in the amount of prescription opioids dispensed. Findings from this study show there was more than a 200 percent increase in heroin poisonings following the policy’s implementation.
In aggregate, the results of this study showed no significant reduction in the rate or number of opioid-related hospitalizations in West Virginia. Study authors say that this shows public health efforts implemented to reduce the excess supply of prescription opioids have not been associated with a decrease in the total number of hospital admissions for opioid poisonings. Findings from this study underscore the need to better understand changes in opioid poisonings since 2008.
Researchers also point out that while some studies suggest prescription drug monitoring programs have reduced access to unnecessary prescription opioids, there is concern that these efforts may be associated with an increase in heroin use. Researchers state that available evidence suggests a need to further examine reasons for changes in rates of prescription opioid and heroin overdose during the current epidemic. The findings from West Virginia highlight the need to tackle the public health emergency with a multifaceted approach.