Drug-related deaths are four times more likely to occur in the two days after hospital discharge than at any other time among users of opioids such as heroin, according to research led by UCL, Public Health England (PHE) and King’s College London.
The peer-reviewed study, published today in PLOS Medicine, looked at data from 13,609 adults in England, who were aged between 18 and 64 and died after using non-prescribed opioids between 2010 and 2019.
The researchers looked at the history of individuals’ hospital admissions and then assessed whether they were admitted to hospital at the time of death or had recently been discharged. Overall, the study found that one in 14 opioid-related deaths in England occurred in the two weeks after hospital discharge.
Of the 13,609 deaths, 1,088 occurred in the 14 days after hospital discharge, particularly during the first two days, when the risk of fatal overdose is four times higher than usual. Patients who were admitted to psychiatric hospitals, who left hospital against their doctor’s advice, or who had stays of seven days or more were also at greater risk.
Deaths due to drug overdoses reached the highest level on record in the UK in 2020 and it is concerning to see that hospital discharge is such a high-risk time for people who use illicit opioids such as Heroin