Opioid-related hospital admissions on the rise in the UK

A new 10 year analysis has shown that the opioid-related hospital admissions have increased by a whopping 48.9 per cent over the last decade in the UK.

The study published in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine shows that opioid-related admissions increased from 10,805 admissions in 2008 to 16,091 admissions in 2018. The increase was 21 per cent above the corresponding rate for all other emergency admissions in England and 40 per cent higher than those due to alcohol or other illicit drugs.

The study, which was led by researchers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the University of Barcelona, looked at hospitalisation from the harmful use of opioids including prescription pain killers, such as tramadol and fentanyl, and illegal drugs such as heroin.

The analysis shows that hospitalisations increased most for individuals older than 55 years (160 per cent), those living in the most affluent areas of England (93.8 per cent), and those suffering from four comorbidities (627.6 per cent) or more.

Death caused by an overdose in opioid users aged 15 to 64 rose by more than 20 per cent between 2011 and 2016, but incidences have since stabilised to around 2,000 deaths per year. According to the researchers this could be attributed to efforts to reverse trends of opioid-related mortality, for example through increasing community access to the overdose reversal drug naloxone.

They say that mortality statistics likely mask an important aspect of harmful opioid use nationally, as most high-risk individual frequently require access to hospital services.

Researchers say that opioid misuse and poisoning may also reflect changes in opioid prescriptions in England. Even though prescribing trends have flattened in the past five years, the strength of prescribed opiate drugs has increased successively.

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