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UW Health: pandemic overshadows rise in opioid overdose visits to ER


MADISON (WKOW) -- Hospitals across the country say they're seeing a concerning spike in opioid overdoses, which have been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, from mid-April to October 2020, the weekly rates of emergency department visits for opioid overdoses increased by as much as 45% when compared against the same period in 2019, according to a recent study in JAMA Psychiatry.

In 2020, UW Health and the BerbeeWalsh Department of Emergency Medicine saw a 15% increase in ER visits related to opioid overdoses, according to Dr. Mike Repplinger, associate professor, emergency medicine and radiology, and director of research education in the department.

“Sadly, an unintended consequence of the pandemic is that it has forced people into isolation in many places, often taking away the support systems for those managing opioid addiction,” he said. “Additionally, the introduction of new types of synthetic opioids has added to an already terrible situation.”

UW Health says other factors have contributed to the rise, including patients being prescribed larger quantities of medications and a lack of access to Suboxone due to clinic closures during the pandemic.

Emily Friese

27 News Producer

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