Photo courtesy OnScene.TV

Opioid-related overdose emergency room visits have more than doubled over the past decade or so, according to a report issued by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Orange County reported 7,457 opioid overdose/abuse cases in emergency rooms between 2011 and 2015, according to the report.

“Importantly, seven of very 10 overdose deaths investigated by the Orange County sheriff-coroner during this five-year period involved opioids,” according to the report.

The rate of opioid-related deaths remained “relatively level” in that time period, according to the report. The average rate from 2011-2015 was 241 opioid-related deaths annually.

The county’s mortality rates related to the narcotics is lower than the nation’s and state’s, according to the report.

Orange County residents between the ages of 45 and 54 were the most stricken with overdose death rates, the report said.

The highest rates of emergency room visits due to the painkillers were in coastal and southern cities such as Dana Point, Costa Mesa, San Clemente, Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods, according to the report.

From 2011-15, overdose deaths increased 21 percent in southern county cities and 20 percent in central cities. Overdose deaths in northern cities decreased by 18 percent.

The county’s healthcare agency has launched a public education effort, and the board of supervisors in July accepted a grant of 6,218 doses of Naloxone, a drug that can be used as an antidote to opioid overdoses. First responders have been using it to save people who overdose.

Drug-overdose deaths in the county have gone up by 88 percent from 2000 to 2015, according to the report. Nearly half of all the deaths stemmed from accidental prescription drug overdoses.

Emergency room visits due to opioids abuse jumped 141 percent from 23.3 per 100,000 in 2005 to 56 per 100,000 in 2015. Hospitalizations increased by nine percent over the same period.

The average is 1,500 Orange County residents treated in an emergency room annually for opioid-related overdose or dependency. Sixty-one percent are males, and 78 percent are white.

The average annually is 15 percent for Latinos, 4 percent for unknown ethnic background, 2 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders and 1 percent for blacks.

From 2011-2015, whites made up 81 percent of opioid-related deaths, 14 percent were Latino, 3 percent were Asian/Pacific Islanders, and one percent were black.

—City News Service

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