Health

Opioid Overdoses in the US Rose 30 Percent in a Year

A CDC study found an acceleration in the number of hospital visits due to overdoses from drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers.

Heroin users prepare to shoot up on the street in a South Bronx neighborhood which has the highest rate of heroin-involved overdose deaths in the city on October 7, 2017. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Heroin users prepare to shoot up on the street in a South Bronx neighborhood which has the highest rate of heroin-involved overdose deaths in the city on October 7, 2017. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The US opioid epidemic is accelerating, with hospital emergency room visits for overdoses from drugs like heroin, fentanyl, and prescription painkillers up 30 percent from 2016 to 2017, US officials said March 6.

Substantial increases in overdoses were seen nationwide, said the report released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Long before we receive data from death certificates, emergency department data can point to alarming increases in opioid overdoses," said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat.

"This fast-moving epidemic affects both men and women, and people of every age. It does not respect state or county lines and is still increasing in every region in the United States."

The report found that from July 2016 to September 2017, a total of 142,557 emergency room visits were due to suspected opioid overdoses.

Comparing the third quarter of 2016 to the third quarter of 2017, researchers found a 29.7 percent jump in ER visits due to opioids.

"Opioid overdoses increased for men and women, all age groups, and all regions," said the report.

The largest increase was in the Midwest region (69.7 percent), followed by the West (40.3 percent).

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The report did not go into whether opioid deaths also rose during the same period studied, since death certificate data can take longer to gather.

However, 63,632 people died of drug overdose deaths in 2016 in the United States, a 21.4 percent increase from 2015, the CDC said.

Nearly two thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved prescription opioids, illicit opioids, or both, an increase of 27.7 percent from 2015.