Repeat Overdoses Increases Odds of Death

Medical equipment in Emergency Room.

This piece touches on perhaps the grimmest, harshest side of substance abuse there is. This is the side of overdose, the end-all of substance abuse, the fate that awaits almost all drug addicts and alcoholics if they do not get help. More specifically, this is on the topic of repeat overdoses, the rapidly descending, dwindling spiral to almost certain death.

Study information shows that people who overdose on drugs and alcohol the first time are more likely to survive the ordeal than they are to die from it. However, those same studies also show that people who overdose repeatedly are more likely to die from that overdose on an increasing percentile scale with each overdose that they experience.

Addicts Almost Never Overdose “Just Once”

According to research performed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, there are risk factors for repeat-overdoses in opioid addicts that do not exist or are not as prevalent in other drug addicts. To find this out, researchers examined nearly twenty-thousand adults in different parts of the country who had been hospitalized at least once for an opioid overdose.

According to the research, seven percent of patients had experienced more than one overdose in just one year. Some had even experienced as many as five overdoses in just one year. This is quite alarming, and perhaps even more alarming is that not enough people know about it and are talking about it.

Crowded  emergency room.

The research also shows that addicts who overdosed more than once in one year were statistically speaking more likely to need advanced medical care, to be in the hospital for a longer period of time, and to die from various medical complications. While only seven percent of addicts overdosed more than once in one year's time, more than sixty percent overdosed more than once over the five year period in which the study was performed.

Drug overdoses are not only brutal, unpleasant, life-threatening, and extremely heartbreaking, but overdoses are also extremely costly. In Florida alone, one year of opioid overdoses costs the state more than two-hundred and eight-million dollars. Ninety-two percent of overdose patients who created that cost were repeat overdose patients.

These are hard facts to stomach. Here’s another one. According to the research, drug overdoses treated at hospitals increased by two-hundred percent between 2001 and 2011 and then increased by two-hundred percent again between 2011 and 2016.

Lessons Learned

According to the lead author of the research report, Dr. Kohei Hasegawa:

“To our knowledge, this is the first study that has identified risk factors for repeat [emergency-room] visits for opioid overdose…”
“To our knowledge, this is the first study that has identified risk factors for repeat [emergency-room] visits for opioid overdose. The dilemma of treating pain appropriately while avoiding opioid-associated adverse events is complicated by insufficient data on those risk factors, and better understanding will help us develop more targeted preventive care.”

We can’t put it any better than that. Even though the truth about repeat drug overdoses is rather miserable, we need to constantly be thinking about what kind of positive change we can create with that information. How can we grow from that data? How can we expand forwards and create a difference? How can we move forward and create a relevant change in our nation, for the better?

The way to start is to capitalize on two strategies:

  • Treat and rehabilitate those currently addicted so they don’t keep overdosing.
  • Educate and inform those not addicted so that they know to never touch opiates.

These strategies, applied in tandem, can reduce the drug problem and actually help the nation to overcome what may yet be the worst drug crisis our country has ever experienced.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.