AHRQ Data Show Impact of Opioid Crisis at County Level
Press Release Date: March 1, 2018
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) released an online statistical resource today that for the first time provides county-level comparisons of hospitalization rates for substance use, including opioids, alcohol, stimulants and other drugs.
While statistics show that alcohol-related hospitalizations ranked first in most communities, opioids and stimulants ranked second or third for hospitalizations in nearly all of the more than 1,600 counties and two cities that provided data in the analysis.
“We believe AHRQ’s new resource will help communities better understand local challenges and support their efforts to formulate the most effective remedies to reduce substance abuse, including the opioid crisis,” said AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna, M.B.A. “These new statistics represent just one part of the agency’s strategy to expand the use of data so that policymakers can tackle the challenges of both today and tomorrow.”
AHRQ’s analysis examined 2014 hospitalization rates for a wide range of substances, including alcohol, opioids, cannabis, hallucinogens, sedatives, hypnotics, stimulants and other drugs, as well as drug-induced mental disorders.
In support of the national effort to tackle the opioids epidemic, the agency has updated its interactive online map of the United States to provide county-specific statistics on opioid-related hospitalizations for the 32 participating states. AHRQ’s ongoing monitoring of local opioid hospitalizations aligns with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) goal of increasing data availability for policymakers and others, part of HHS’ Five-Point Strategy to combat the opioids crisis.
AHRQ’s new resource of statistics, drawn from data provided by 32 states, illustrate how the impact of substance use has varied widely across communities. Owsley County, Ky., for example, had the highest overall hospitalization rate for substances: 3,525 hospital stays per 100,000 people. Conversely, Ringgold County, Iowa, had the lowest rate: 220 stays per 100,000 people.
AHRQ’s new resource also allows a focused look at hospitalization rates for specific substances, a feature with the potential to support policymakers and public health advocates seeking to prioritize and tackle local substance use challenges. For example, Cook County, Ill., had an opioid-related hospitalization rate of 440 per 100,000 people in 2014. The rate for Starr County, Texas, meanwhile, was only 18 per 100,000 people.
The statistics show similar variations for alcohol-related hospitalizations, which remain the nation’s most common reason for a substance use-related hospitalization. Some higher-than-average rates across the country for alcohol-related hospitalizations include Edgecombe County, N.C. (1,196 stays per 100,000), Androscoggin County, Maine (1,187 stays per 100,000) and Lake County, Calif. (1,173 stays per 100,000).
“The statistics on hospital stays help quantify the staggering human and financial costs of substance use disorders,” said AHRQ’s Kevin Heslin, Ph.D., who led the effort to develop the new statistical resource on substance-related abuse hospitalizations.
In 2014, U.S. hospitals reported more than 3 million admissions lasting an average six days for patients admitted due to the misuse of alcohol, opioids and other drugs. The total estimated cost: $38 billion.
AHRQ’s new online Community Level Statistics on Hospital Stays for Alcohol and Other Drugs draws from the agency’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). HCUP is the nation’s most comprehensive source of hospital data, including information on inpatient care, ambulatory surgeries and services, and emergency department visits.
The new resource allows statistics to be broken down by age group, sex, payer and type of stay. Downloadable tables, graphs and maps are available for users to compare counties within a specific state, as well as with counties in other states.
AHRQ will update the resource as more data become available. The ongoing analysis will help public health officials, clinicians, first responders, researchers and others to understand local trends, including hospitalization rates associated with the ongoing opioid epidemic.