In the latest indication of the opioid epidemic’s rising toll, hospitals across Pennsylvania are admitting more and more patients who have overdosed.
According to a new report from the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, the number of those receiving inpatient care for an overdose of pain pills more than tripled between 2000 and 2014. For heroin, it more than doubled.
“I think it underscores what many people believe is a very threatening public health problem,” said Joe Martin, executive director of the council.
In 2014, Philadelphia had the highest rate of overdose admissions in the state, but the biggest increases were in rural and suburban areas. The sharpest rise for heroin overdose hospitalizations occurred in north central Pennsylvania, with an uptick of 509 percent. For pain medication, south central Pennsylvania saw the largest surge, at 442 percent.
The analysis also estimated the opioid overdose hospitalizations cost $12.2 million, although Martin noted that the figure likely underestimates the total bill.
“My suspicion is that if you start to count in the other costs related to emergency room visits and so on, those numbers are going to go up significantly,” he said. “This is only the tip of the iceberg.”