Non-Fatal Opioid Overdose and Abuse Visits to a University Hospital Emergency Department in Puerto Rico, 2009-2018

Steven Vélez-Pastrana, Miguel Campos-Colberg, Juan González-Sanchez, Rodney George, Vanesa Campos-Colberg, Bianca López, Susan Corey-Best


Objective: The objective was to describe opioid-use trends (2009–2018) at a university hospital emergency department (ED) in metropolitan San Juan, Puerto Rico. Methods: The ED database of the University of Puerto Rico - Dr. Federico Trilla Hospital provided the data for the study. Results: Non-fatal opioid overdoses surged 7.5-fold, increasing from 12.1 (±2.5) per 100,000 ED encounters for 2009 through 2016 to 91.2 (±8.7) per 100,000 ED encounters for 2017 through 2018 (P < .0001). Starting in summer 2017, the surge reached its peak in October after two major hurricanes. The opioid-related ED cases comprised 15.8% from 2009 through 2016, increasing to 67% in 2017 through 2018. Prior to October 2015, multiple drugs were mentioned in 65% of the opioid-related cases, decreasing to 37% of the total cases, thereafter. Cocaine was reported in combination with opioids in 53% of all opioid-related cases from August 2009 through September 2015, decreasing to 21% from October 2015 through December 2018, cannabis in 15 % and 10%, respectively, and alcohol in 10% and 6%, respectively. Amphetamines were mentioned once in combination with opioids. The overall male:female ratio for all opioid-related cases was 6.3 (rate: 8.8). Conclusion: The data show an increase in opioid-toxicity cases in the area served by the above-named hospital beginning in mid-2017. Opioid-related cases overwhelmingly involved male patients. More work is needed to establish islandwide trends.


opioid overdose, emergency department, ICD code

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