Opioid-Related Hospitalizations up 64 percent Nationwide Between 2005-2014; First State-by State Analysis Shows Wide Variations

Press Release Date: December 15, 2016

Opioid-related hospital stays involving misuse of prescription pain relievers or use of illicit opioids such as heroin increased nationwide by 64 percent between 2005 and 2014, according to an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) report that provides new insights into the nation’s costly opioid epidemic.

Although data indicate a significant increase in opioid-related hospital stays nationwide, the analysis shows that trends vary widely among states. Focusing on the most recent years of data available, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota and Washington State reported that opioid-related stay rates increased by at least 60 percent between 2009 and 2014. Meanwhile, rates decreased in Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, and Maryland and during the same period.

"These new data provide vital insights into the trends that are shaping one of the nation’s most pressing health challenges," said AHRQ Director Andy Bindman, M.D. "With updated information about state and regional variations in opioid-related hospital care, we’re increasing our potential to develop effective strategies to tackle the crisis."

The substantial rise in the misuse of opioids has led to an epidemic in overdoses, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to HHS, opioid-related overdoses kill 90 people in the U.S. each day, while opioid poisonings cost the nation more than $20 billion annually in emergency department and hospital care.

The new state-specific data are summarized in an AHRQ Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) statistical brief, "Opioid-Related Hospital Stays and Emergency Department Visits by State, 2009–2014" (PDF File, 177 KB). In addition to providing trends over time, the report, based on HCUP’s National Inpatient Sample and State Inpatient Databases, identifies the states with the highest rates of opioid-related hospital stays in 2014, the most current year available. In that year, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and West Virginia each reported rates exceeding 350 per 100,000 people—far above the national average of 225 per 100,000. Nationally, opioid-related hospital stay rates have increased from 137 stays per 100,000 people in 2005 to 225 people in 2014—a 64 percent increase. 

The data in AHRQ’s report are drawn from the agency’s Fast Stats, a website that displays national and state health statistics collected by the agency’s HCUP. The online resource has been updated to include overall trends in opioid-related hospital stays and emergency department visits as well as breakdowns by age, gender, income and urban versus rural residency. More than 40 states contribute to the Fast Stats Web site. A new AHRQ infographic helps illustrate variations among states.

"Fast Stats open the door to valuable insights about the growing burdens that opioid misuse are placing on hospitals and emergency departments," said Dr. Bindman. "It’s our hope that public health leaders, policymakers and others will use Fast Stats to further target and evaluate their efforts to confront the crisis."

The Obama Administration has undertaken a series of initiatives to address the opioid crisis. On December 13, 2016, the President signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which implements his Budget proposal to provide $1 billion in new funding to combat the opioid crisis. Major parts of the Administration’s effort also include expanding community-based prevention efforts, expanding access to treatment, supporting the millions of Americans in recovery, and pursuing targeted approaches to drug enforcement. In addition, HHS has initiated several strategies to help Americans struggling with opioid addiction, including the department’s Opioid Initiative focused on improving opioid prescribing practices, expanding access to medication-assisted treatment, and increasing the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses. Strategies for tackling the opioid epidemic are also featured in the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health  and the recent Surgeon General’s "Turn the Tide" campaign.

In support of HHS’s initiatives, AHRQ is investing about $12 million over three years in a series of grants to discover how best to deliver medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse in rural primary care practices. The projects are testing ways to overcome barriers to the use of medication-assisted treatment, such as limited continuing training opportunities for prescribing physicians, negative perceptions about people with substance abuse disorders, negative expectations about the effectiveness of treatment, and lack of social support services in rural communities. To learn more about AHRQ’s commitment to support the challenge of opioid misuse, read Dr. Bindman’s new blog post.

Page last reviewed December 2016
Page originally created December 2016
Internet Citation: Opioid-Related Hospitalizations up 64 percent Nationwide Between 2005-2014; First State-by State Analysis Shows Wide Variations. Content last reviewed December 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsroom/press-releases/opioid-related-hospitalizations.html