Prevalence and charges of opioid-related visits to U.S. emergency departments

James R. Langabeer, Angela L. Stotts, Bentley J. Bobrow, Henry E. Wang, Kimberly A. Chambers, Andrea J. Yatsco, Marylou Cardenas-Turanzas, Tiffany Champagne-Langabeer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: An overwhelming responsibility for responding to the opioid epidemic falls on hospital emergency departments (ED). We sought to examine the overall prevalence rate and associated charges of opioid-related diagnoses and overdoses. Although charge data do not necessarily represent cost, they are proxy indicators of resource utilization and burden. Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of the National Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) dataset, the largest all-payer ED database in the United States. We queried using specific relevant ICD-10 codes to estimate the number of adult ED visits for both opioid poisonings and other opioid-related diagnoses during 2016 and 2017, which was the most recent publicly available data. Prevalence rates and financial charges were calculated by year and odds ratios were used to examine differences. Results: Of approximately 234 million adult visits to EDs across 2016 and 2017, 2.88 million (1.23%) were related to opioids, with overdoses comprising nearly 27.5% and visits for other opioid-related diagnoses totaling 72.5%. As the primary diagnosis, opioids were responsible for 37% of all ED visits across both years. Total opioid-related visits for the two years accounted for $9.57 billion in ED charges, or $4.78 billion annually, with Medicaid and Medicare responsible for 66% of all charges. Conclusion and relevance: Approximately one of every 80 visits to the ED were opioid-related, leading to financial charges approaching $5 billion per year. Since both prevalence and the economic burden of opioid-related visits are high, targeted interventions to address this epidemic's impact on healthcare systems should be a national priority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108568
JournalDrug and Alcohol Dependence
StatePublished - Apr 1 2021


  • Costs
  • Emergency department
  • Epidemiology
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Overdose

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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