Drug overdoses in ER lead to $1.4B in annual charges

Americans who overdose on drugs, whether prescribed or not, are flooding the nation's hospital emergency rooms and racking up nearly $1.5 billion a year in emergency room charges, reports the New York Times.

The study, published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, used data from the 2007 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, which has data on 27 million ER visits to nearly 1,000 hospital emergency rooms nationwide.

The study's lead author, Gary Smith, M.D., director of the Center for injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, attributed the large numbers to a dramatic rise in the past decade of prescriptions for powerful opioid drugs such as oxycodone, methadone and hyrdocodone. Those, along with antidepressants, comprised 44 percent of all overdose cases that came through the hospital ERs.

However, children had the highest rate of ER visits for accidental overdoses, although many of their visits were precautionary. The rate of overdoses in rural areas was three times that of urban centers.

For more:
- read the New York Times article
- read the study abstract