Heroin-related hospital visits in Massachusetts grew by 256 percent from 2011 to 2015, with the sharpest increase among patients between the ages of 25 and 34, according to data set to be released Wednesday.
New research by the state's Health Policy Commission found a 56 percent increase in all opioid-related hospital inpatient and emergency department discharges from 2011 to 2015, rising from about 40,000 to more than 60,000. Heroin-related discharges rose the most sharply, climbing to about 10,000, while visits related to other opioids increased by 50 percent.
In 2014, Massachusetts had the highest rate of opioid-related emergency department visits in the United States and the second-highest rate of opioid-related inpatient stays, according to the commission.
In a statement, Health Policy Commission executive director David Seltz called the new data "startling," pointing particularly to the increase in opioid-related visits among young adults. Patients between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced a 192 percent increase in opioid hospitalizations between 2011 and 2015, while there was a 12 percent increase for patients between 20 and 24, and a 78 percent increase for patients between age 35 and 44.
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Deaths from opioid overdoses have also continued to rise in Massachusetts. According to the Department of Public Health's latest quarterly report, released in May, there were 1,933 confirmed opioid deaths in 2016, up from 1,651 in 2015.
The Health Policy Commission's new data brief said the impact of the opioid epidemic on life expectancy is "pronounced" as many opioid-related overdose deaths occur among younger patients. Massachusetts residents collectively lost 60,000 years of life due to poisonings — most of which were opioid-related — in 2015, when measured by years of potential life lost before age 75, the brief said.
The commission plans to publish additional data on the opioid epidemic's impact on the health care system later in the summer, updating a 2016 report to include information on emergency department visits.