One-year Death Rate of Opioid Use Disorder Similar to Heart Attacks

“Hospitalized patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) die at a rate comparable to people who suffered heart attacks within a year of hospital discharge,” according to a new study from Oregon Health & Science University.

The study published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine found that almost 8 percent of patients with OUD died within 12 months of being discharged. The authors say their findings highlight the need for addiction care in the hospital, as well as generally improving health systems for patients with substance use disorder (SUD) who also have other medical conditions.

They concluded that “hospitalized patients with OUD are at high risk of death, from drug and non-drug-related causes, in the year after discharge,” and suggested that “future research should consider not only overdose, but a more comprehensive definition of drug-related death in understanding post-discharge mortality among hospitalized patients with OUD, and care systems should work to mitigate the risk of death in this population.”

A severe opioid use disorder is a life-threatening disease, requiring comprehensive addiction treatment. Overdose deaths—largely driven by opioid misuse—soared to a record 93,000 last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US government reported in July. That latest estimate far eclipses the high of about 72,000 drug overdose deaths reached the previous year and amounts to an alarming 29 percent increase.

A comprehensive treatment plan may include the prescription of three FDA-approved drugs as part of medication-assisted treatment or MAT. Medications used for the treatment of opioid use disorder are buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), methadone, and extended-release naltrexone (Vivitrol). Research shows that a combination of medication and therapy can successfully treat OUD, and for “some people struggling with opioid addiction, MAT can help sustain recovery,” according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. “MAT is also used to prevent or reduce opioid overdose.”

Harmony Offers HOPE

As a modern treatment provider, Harmony has offered clients with OUD medication-assisted treatment for a number of years. Harmony’s Opioid Programming Experience (HOPE) is a combination of education, counseling, and the use of medication in early recovery. HOPE expands MAT to include medications that alter the physical response to opioids, reduce cravings, and give the patient time to heal from the psychological, social, and spiritual wounds of addiction.

At Harmony, HOPE begins with thorough medical and psychological evaluations. Collaboration with the patient, members of the interdisciplinary team, and, when appropriate, family and referral sources, determine the most effective treatment plan. All HOPE clients are invited to participate in weekly support groups led by a professional addiction counselor. These groups address the unique challenges of early opioid recovery, including uncomfortable physical and psychological symptoms, cravings, and strategies to avoid relapse. In this setting, clients support each other and are educated about the process of recovery.

Harmony Foundation is one of the longest-running and most successful addiction treatment centers in the world. If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, or you have questions about our programs, call us today at (970) 432-8075 to get the help needed as soon as possible. Our experienced staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.