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More Damage from the Opioid Epidemic: Rocketing Rates of Heart Infection

opioids

Since the late 1990’s, the opioid crisis in the U.S. has claimed the lives of thousands of people. In fact, every day over 100 people in the U.S. die from overdosing on opioids.  Heroin, prescription pain killers like oxycodone, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl have led to a national public health crisis that can’t be ignored.

The crisis can be traced back to the 1990’s, when pharmaceutical companies claimed their prescription opioid pain relievers were not addictive, and healthcare providers began prescribing them at greater rates to the public. We are now deep into the crisis and know that these painkillers are indeed addictive, and the ramifications of overprescribing them have been deeply felt throughout the nation.

Heart Infection Rates Skyrocket

Recent research from an Ohio medical center has found another dangerous side-effect of the opioid crisis: the spike in cases of a dangerous heart infection that is linked to injection drug use.

At Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, admissions for infective endocarditis doubled over a period of five years, between 2012 and 2017. Workers at the hospital were surprised by how quickly the problem got out of hand, and said that the drastic increase of cases could be accounted for by the increase in injection drug users.

Infective endocarditis occurs when bacteria collects on the heart’s valves or inside the heart’s lining. In the past, it most frequently affected older patients who already had heart defects or an artificial heart valve. However, the spike in heroin users caused from the opioid epidemic – who are putting themselves at high-risk by using contaminated needles – has exacerbated the problem in many areas of the country.

Here are some other startling facts about the opioid epidemic:

  • Around a quarter of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse the drugs.
  • Around 10% develop an opioid use disorder.
  • It has been estimated that around 5% of people who misuse prescription opioids move on to heroin.
  • Nearly 80% of heroin users first abused prescription opioids.
  • Between July 2016 and September 2017, opioid overdoses jumped over 70 percent in the Midwest.

If you or a person you love is suffering from opioid addiction, it is important you seek help. You can find out more about the crisis by visiting the Health Resources and Services Administration website here.

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