University of Pittsburgh

Dr. Thomas Songer to assist PA Department of Health on Opioid-Related Hospitalizations and Mortality in PA

Feb 25, 2016

There has been a significant increase in the number of people dying from overdoses, predominantly after abuse of prescribed opioid analgesics.  It appears that this trend is associated with a growing use of opioid prescription medications both in and outside of the legal market, as well as substitution with heroin. However, there is little data to identify who may transition from approved medical use of opioids to abuse, overdose and heroin use.  Identifying individuals at high risk for hospital admission and mortality is a first step to providing evidence to evaluate this issue. Through collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology (Marshall Ma, MD, MPH), Dr. Songer and Dr. Ma will evaluate the demographic and medical characteristics of hospitalized and fatal cases throughout PA.  Further, the investigator will seek to use a linked dataset of opioid-related hospital admissions and death certificates to establish a cohort of individuals affected by opioid overuse and identify factors related to the risk for subsequent events (hospital use and mortality). The goal of this pilot study is to build and evidence base to support future policy discussions and future proposals to evaluate subsequent major issues in this field, such as the transition and timing from prescription opioid use to heroin and the effectiveness of prevention measures (such as naloxone) in reducing opioid-related events.