Texas health officials: Patient deaths and emergency room visits linked to opioid overdose
Health officials in Texas are warning patients and emergency rooms about the dangers of opioids, a major source of abuse and addiction, as a rise in deaths from the drugs has led to an uptick in emergency room admissions.
The state is now reporting nearly 2,500 emergency room hospitalizations for drug-related problems in the past three years, the highest number in a decade, according to the Office of the State Health Director, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program.
The office says about 1,300 of those were for drug overdoses, with a majority of those for prescription painkillers, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
That’s an increase of nearly 50 percent since 2014, when the number of emergency room-related hospitalizations was down about 35 percent.
State Health Director Jessica Lappin said that the rise in hospitalizations in the opioid epidemic is linked to an increase in opioid-related deaths.
In 2017, Texas had 2,096 opioid-induced deaths.
Last year, there were 1,636.
Lappanin said the spike in deaths is not linked to the increase in prescriptions for prescription drugs, but the rising use of synthetic opioids and the rise of fentanyl.
The rise in drug-induced fatalities has led health officials to recommend that doctors avoid prescribing opioids to patients in the first place, she said.
Lappin cited a case in which a doctor prescribed the prescription for a painkiller to a woman who was struggling with pain after a heart attack.
She died from fentanyl poisoning, and Lappen said the doctor told her it was not safe for her to continue to take the drug.
She also noted that a patient had died of fentanyl poisoning.
The doctor was not immediately identified.
The increase in hospital admissions for opioid-associated deaths has come amid a rise of overdose deaths in Texas, which has become a center of the opioid crisis.
More than 9,000 people died of opioid overdoses last year, according the state Department of State Health Services.
More deaths have been reported for fentanyl, but Lappens said the rise is not related to the fentanyl epidemic.