AHRQ Views

Blog posts from AHRQ leaders

Andy Bindman, M.D., Director of AHRQHaving been a primary care physician who practiced in a safety-net setting, I’m very familiar with patients who use opioids. These drugs are remarkable in their ability to block the sensation of pain, which comes in handy after surgery or an injury.

However, chronic use of these medications or misuse of them for recreational purposes can lead to significant functional impairments, serious health complications, and even death. The increasing availability of these drugs inside and outside of the health care system is contributing to an epidemic that can be devastating for patients and their families.

Addressing this epidemic has been a priority within HHS. One way that AHRQ has contributed is by describing the size and dimensions of this crisis. AHRQ’s new Statistical Brief, Opioid-Related Hospital Stays and Emergency Department Visits by State, 2009–2014 (PDF File, 177 KB) is a unique source for these national and State data.

First, the national picture: According to AHRQ’s analysis, the rate of opioid-related hospital stays increased 64 percent between 2005 and 2014. Meanwhile, the rate of emergency department visits doubled between 2005 and 2014.

The data illustrate the wide divide among States in opioid-related hospitalizations:  In 2014, Maryland had the highest rate of opioid-related hospital stays (404 stays per 100,000 population)—5.5 times higher than Iowa, the State with the lowest rate of stays (73 per 100,000). The data also show that, while opioid-related stays increased in most States between 2009 and 2014, the trends varied from nearly double (Georgia) to a 18-percent decrease in Kansas.  AHRQ has created an infographic on opioid-related hospital data that provides a visual snapshot of State variations in 2014 related to opioid-related hospital stays.

These numbers are important. State-specific opioid data can help us understand where the burdens on hospital care have grown the most. They may also suggest which States are making the most headway when it comes to tackling the epidemic.

This statistical brief was made possible by an update we made to our online tool, Fast Stats. Launched in July 2015, Fast Stats draws upon data from AHRQ’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. Its graphics, tables, and export options give users access to data on hospital discharges according to clinical categories—surgical, mental health, maternal, injury, medical, and now opioid hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

Gaining a greater understanding of the trends is just one element of a strong Federal push to reduce opioid misuse. HHS initiatives focus on three areas: opioid prescribing practices to reduce opioid disorders and overdose; expanded use of naloxone to treat overdoses; and expanded use of medication-assisted treatment to reduce opioid use disorders and overdose.

AHRQ’s support of HHS’s initiatives is ongoing. In addition to tracking the hospital and emergency department data, we’re investing about $12 million over 3 years in a series of grants to discover how best to deliver medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse in rural primary care practices. As time goes on, we’ll keep you informed about AHRQ’s progress in support of the national efforts to address this crisis. In the meantime, our press release also provides a good summary of the Statistical Brief, Opioid-Related Hospital Stays and Emergency Department Visits by State, 2009–2014 (PDF File, 177 KB).

Page last reviewed December 2016
Page originally created December 2016
Internet Citation: AHRQ Data Prove What Every Hospital Knows: Opioid Stays Are Going Up. Content last reviewed December 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/blog/ahrqviews/ahrq-data-prove-what-every-hospital-knows.html