Researchers at the Missouri Hospital Association say there have been many other opioid addiction studies in the past.
"A lot of these studies rely on hospital discharge data," says Mat Reidhead, part of research and analytics at the Missouri Hospital Association in Jefferson City.
Previous studies also counted the number of opioid overdose deaths at Missouri hospitals.
"Fewer than 26 percent of opioid deaths occur in a hospital," says Reidhead.
Researchers say this latest study gives a more accurate picture by looking at death certificates.
"Those overdoses are occurring in their homes," says Reidhead.
"Patients have been treated with opioids for all kinds of small aches and pains, and now they pretty much have become addicted to them," says Judith Russell, a nurse practitioner at Mercy Hospital in Joplin. "Probably the worst it's been in a long time."
The latest study shows there have been 12,585 drug overdose deaths in Missouri from 1999 to 2015. There were 294 overdose deaths in 1999, and 1,098 deaths in 2015.
"It's unheard of for mortality rates to increase in a developed country with all of the benefits of the science, health, and advances in medicine," says Reidhead.
This newest study also looked at what lead to fatal drug overdoses.
"Looked back over the previous years to see what types of experiences those patients had," says Reidhead.
Researchers say 43% of people who died in a Missouri hospital in 2016 from heroin had a history (during the previous four years) of being in the hospital for prescription opioid abuse. Also in the new report: 75% of new heroin users say their addiction began by abusing prescription opioids.
"We're trying to limit the amount of opioids we prescribe out of the ER for mild pain and for chronic pain," says Russell. "But, it's going to take a lot of work."
...Work that doctors and medical researchers say involves convincing Missouri lawmakers to enact a statewide prescription opioid monitoring program.
A proposal for that monitoring program has passed Missouri's Senate and now requires House approval.
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