The rates of opioid-related hospitalizations and opioid-related hospitalizations with serious infection have increased significantly since 2002, according to a study published in Health Affairs.

Although the total number of hospitalizations in the United States has remained relatively consistent, opioid-related hospitalizations have increased by 72%; opioid-related hospitalizations with associated serious infections have increased by 91%.

“The growing problem of opioid abuse in the United States has been well documented, but our study is the first of its kind to quantify serious infections related to opioid abuse and their impact on the U.S. hospital system and on health care costs,” said Shoshana Herzig, MD, MPH, Director of Hospital Medicine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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The study included discharge data from a nationally representative sample of inpatient hospitalizations in the United States from 2002 to 2012. During the study period, opioid-related hospitalizations increased from 301,707 to 520,275, and those with associated serious infection increased from 3,241 to 6,535.

Inpatient charges for both types of hospitalizations almost quadrupled from 2002 to 2012. Charges reached almost $15 billion for opioid abuse/dependence hospitalizations and more than $700 million for those with associated infections.

Medicaid was the most common primary payer for both types of opioid-related hospitalizations. Private insurance accounted for 20% of opioid-relation hospitalizations and 14% of those with associated infection.

“The downstream consequences of opioid abuse and dependence, including serious infection, are severe – for individual patients and their loved ones, caregivers, hospital systems and the federal government,” said Dr Herzig. “A commitment to decreasing access to opioids, early treatment, and preventive strategies will be vital to decrease the burden of disease and cost to the health care system and society.”


  1. Ronan MV, Herzig SJ. Hospitalizations related to opioid abuse/dependence and associated serious infections increased sharply, 2002-12. Health Affairs. 2016;35(5):832-837.