The increase in injection usage across the USA is contributing to the growth of a life threatening heart condition called endocarditis, with a large number of cases over the last few years, correlating with the rise in fentanyl abuse across the country. The rise of opioid addiction has grown to crisis levels, with states right across the country suffering. Record numbers of people are seeking treatment from treatment centers in Rhode Island to rehab in Arizona, and there are no signs of it slowing down.
And while overdosing has been seen as the main risk, and a contributor in a large number of drug-related deaths, the news of the rapidly accelerating heart condition is also a huge cause for concern.
The concern is two-fold. Firstly, there’s the fact that it is life threatening and more people are dying as a result of injecting substances, but secondly, the US health system isn’t in a position to be able to cope with the number of people admitted to hospital with the problem.
Drug deaths are at an all-time high, driving US life expectancy down significantly, with endocarditis cases increasing among drug users by almost tenfold over the last decade, and it’s finally starting to be seen as a pretty desperate crisis.
Care for endocarditis usually consists of antibiotics delivered by drip, or through a PICC line when medication is needed for several weeks. Surgery may also be required to replace any damaged heart valves.
That puts strain on healthcare, especially when more and more people are visiting with drug abuse problems too. It’s complicated and lengthy hospital stays also then require treatment for withdrawal among drug users.
Nora Volkow, the co-author of the study, said: “You have someone that has very strong physical dependence to opioids, they go into the hospital, and they go into withdrawal, and that withdrawal can be very, very severe.
“They may leave the hospital against medical advice, because they’re not being treated for the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.”
It’s another major problem to add to the already growing number of problems as a result of the opioid crisis in the country, and there have been numerous debates around what can be done about it.
The next 12 months are going to be crucial in trying to limit the number of overdoses and people becoming addicted to the substances, while the calls for more support and easier access to addiction treatment continues to grow in order to start getting people off the incredibly fatal drug.