Opioid overdoses continue to rise, says latest CDC data on ED visits

Rates jumped 30% from July 2016–September 2017

The latest statistics from CDC indicate that the opioid crisis in America is not abating. According to a March CDC Vital Signs report, there were more than 142,000 suspected opioid overdoses among the 91 million emergency department (ED) visits across the United States captured in CDC’s National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) from July 2016–September 2017.

“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,” said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat, MD.

Data from CDC’s NSSP showed a rate increase in overdose rates of 30% on average in 52 jurisdictions in 45 states.

Overdose visits increased most dramatically in the Midwestern states, about 70%, followed by the Western states at 40%, according to the report. Substantial increases were seen in both men and women almost equally and in all age groups 25 years and older.

In general, urban areas experienced significant increases in ED opioid visits—a finding that Schuchat noted as interesting. Opioid overdoses in large cities increased by 54% based on data from 16 states in CDC’s Enhanced State Opioid Overdose Surveillance program.

“We have talked in the past about the rural areas being hard hit with the opioid overdose epidemic. We know that prescribing patterns for prescriptions of opioids have been high in some rural areas, so there may be a difference between the prescribing levels versus the illicit supply,” said Schuchat during a call with reporters.

The report still leaves open the question of whether people are turning to illicit opioids, which are the primary sources of overdose.

The new release includes the timely data on opioid overdoses and will help CDC keep track of developing trends. Schuchat noted that the information in the report can provide critical new insight that can help CDC better tailor prevention and response efforts to the epidemic since EDs play an important role linking people to treatment not to mention preventing fatal overdoses. Research shows that people who have had at least one overdose are more likely to have another.