Injecting Opioids Increases The Risk Of Bacterial Heart Infections: Study

Injecting opioid painkillers increases the risk of developing a serious and potentially life-threatening infection in the lining of the heart, according to the findings of a new study. 

As the opioid epidemic continues to worsen, Canadian researchers indicate injected opioids pose a particular risk for illicit drug users, in addition to the concerns about the risk of drug overdose.

Researchers note that the number of prescriptions for the injectable opioid painkiller hydromorphone has increased in recent years, along with the number of patients requiring hospitalization for infective endocarditis. Their findings were published online January 28, in the journal CMAJ.

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Canadian researchers conducted a population based study involving illicit drug users in Ontario, Canada from 2006 to 2015. They used health administrative data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information’s Discharge Abstract Database and the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System database.

This data included more than 60,000 admissions to hospitals involving people who injected opioids. Overall, 733 contracted infective endocarditis linked to injecting drugs.

Admission rates for those who injected hydromorphone averaged 13 every three months at the start of the study, according to the findings. By the end of the study in 2015 the admission rate for injectable drug users surged to 35 every three months.

Furthermore, researchers noted the number of hydromorphone prescriptions issued increased from 16% at the start of the study to 53% by 2015. Similarly, the percentage of opioid prescriptions attributed to controlled-release oxycodone declined rapidly when it was removed from the Canadian market in 2011.

The researchers determined there was a direct correlation between the increase in the risk of admissions for infective endocarditis and the use of injected drugs.

Endocarditis is a serious bacterial infection of the lining of the heart. It can be life threatening in certain cases. Injected drug use increases a person’s risk of getting infective endocarditis because of breaks in sterile injection technique, the researchers warn.

The new study is another side effect of the worsening opioid drug abuse epidemic. Recent research indicates opioids, including injectable hydromorphone, account for nearly 70% of all overdose deaths.


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