Opioid-related Overdoses as a Reportable Condition

November 16, 2017|4:03 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

While data clearly shows a dramatic rise in the opioid-related overdose death rate, the rate of nonfatal opioid overdoses remains a mystery. In 2003, an analysis estimated that there are twenty nonfatal opioid-related overdoses for every fatal overdose. With over 33,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2015, the earlier estimate would mean approximately 660,000 nonfatal overdoses for that year. Using these estimates, Massachusetts noted in a recent assessment that the state’s nonfatal overdoses for 2015 could have been 30,000-40,000 rather than the 20,000 that were identified.

Accurate and timely information about nonfatal opioid-related overdoses can be used to identify areas where health agencies can increase intervention measures. It can also be used by community outreach organizations to provide additional resources. Data about nonfatal overdoses may come from hospitals, emergency departments, and ambulance services. For example, Virginia uses emergency room and chief complaint and discharge diagnosis data for its monthly drug overdose surveillance. Other states now require that overdoses be entered into the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (e.g., Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin). Still others are making overdoses a reportable condition. Texas and Nevada now have statutory requirements for reporting opioid overdoses, while state health agencies in Arizona, New Mexico, and Rhode Island used their rulemaking authority to add opioid overdoses to the state’s list of reportable conditions. Once collected, the data can be used to enlighten policymaking, notify health providers, and inform communities about the opioid epidemic (e.g., Prevent Overdose RI).

Additional information about opioid overdose reporting requirements can be found in this factsheet from the Network for Public Health Law. ASTHO will continue to monitor opioid overdose reporting requirements and keep members informed.