A hospital or emergency department may be the only place a patient with substance use disorder (SUD) receives health care. In some instances, this will be for an overdose, and in other cases, it may be for an injury or infection related to their substance use. This makes the hospital a critical intervention point for engaging people with SUD and linking them to treatment.
The opioid epidemic has resulted in rapidly escalating utilization of health system inpatient and emergency medical services. Between 2005 and 2014, the national rate of opioid-related inpatient stays increased 64.1 percent and the national rate of opioid-related emergency ED visits increased 99.4 percent. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that this trend has continued. In sixteen states reviewed by the CDC, ED visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
We know that patients who have had a non-fatal overdose are at heightened risk for fatal overdose and need treatment for SUD. Recognizing the critical need for ED interventions for patients with SUD, the Addiction Policy Forum launched its Emergency Medicine Initiative to support health systems and patients. With the necessary protocols, assessment tools, and referral paths, a non-fatal overdose can become an intervening opportunity for connection with treatment and recovery.