MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Emergency room visits for suspected opioid overdoses increased 109 percent in Wisconsin from July 2016 to September 2017, according to federal health officials.
The state had the highest spike out of the 16 states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observed, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. Wisconsin had more than 3,400 ER visits for suspected opioid overdoses during the period studied.
The study found the rate of ER visits for suspected opioid overdoses rose 30 percent nationally in that time.
The numbers indicate the need to enhance mental health services, medication-assisted treatment for addiction and distribution of naloxone, which is an overdose-reversing drug, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the acting director of the CDC.
"This is a very difficult and fast-moving epidemic," Schuchat said. "This data sends a wakeup call about the need to improve what happens when patients leave the emergency department."
UW Hospital has seen an increase in overdoses involving prescription opioids and illicit opioids, such as heroin and illegally formulated fentanyl, said Dr. Brian Sharp. Patients often experience respiratory distress and require resuscitation and sometimes ventilation.
"Seeing frequent overdoses, especially in young patients, can take an emotional toll," Sharp said.
More than 800 people died from opioid overdoses in Wisconsin in 2016, a 35 percent increase from 2015. The state had more than 600 opioid deaths during the first nine months of 2017, a 5 percent decrease compared to that same period in 2016.
The decline in deaths is likely due "to increased awareness about the opioid crisis, as well as an increase in the use of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses," said Jennifer Miller, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health Services.
Officials are working to decrease the supply of and the demand for opioids, as well as reduce the stigma around addiction, said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.