Despite the increased availability of naloxone, death rates from opioid overdose continue to increase. The goal of this study is to determine the 1-year mortality of patients who were treated for a nonfatal opioid overdose in Massachusetts emergency departments (EDs).
This was a retrospective observational study of patients from 3 linked statewide Massachusetts data sets: a master demographics list, an acute care hospital case-mix database, and death records. Patients discharged from the ED with a final diagnosis of opioid overdose were included. The primary outcome measure was death from any cause within 1 year of overdose treatment.
During the study period, 17,241 patients were treated for opioid overdose. Of the 11,557 patients who met study criteria, 635 (5.5%) died within 1 year, 130 (1.1%) died within 1 month, and 29 (0.25%) died within 2 days. Of the 635 deaths at 1 year, 130 (20.5%) occurred within 1 month and 29 (4.6%) occurred within 2 days.
The short-term and 1-year mortality of patients treated in the ED for nonfatal opioid overdose is high. The first month, and particularly the first 2 days after overdose, is the highest-risk period. Patients who survive opioid overdose should be considered high risk and receive interventions such as being offered buprenorphine, counseling, and referral to treatment before ED discharge.