One-Year Mortality of Patients After Emergency Department Treatment for Nonfatal Opioid Overdose

Ann Emerg Med. 2020 Jan;75(1):13-17. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2019.04.020. Epub 2019 Jun 20.


Study objective: Despite the increased availability of naloxone, death rates from opioid overdose continue to increase. The goal of this study is to determine the 1-year mortality of patients who were treated for a nonfatal opioid overdose in Massachusetts emergency departments (EDs).

Methods: This was a retrospective observational study of patients from 3 linked statewide Massachusetts data sets: a master demographics list, an acute care hospital case-mix database, and death records. Patients discharged from the ED with a final diagnosis of opioid overdose were included. The primary outcome measure was death from any cause within 1 year of overdose treatment.

Results: During the study period, 17,241 patients were treated for opioid overdose. Of the 11,557 patients who met study criteria, 635 (5.5%) died within 1 year, 130 (1.1%) died within 1 month, and 29 (0.25%) died within 2 days. Of the 635 deaths at 1 year, 130 (20.5%) occurred within 1 month and 29 (4.6%) occurred within 2 days.

Conclusion: The short-term and 1-year mortality of patients treated in the ED for nonfatal opioid overdose is high. The first month, and particularly the first 2 days after overdose, is the highest-risk period. Patients who survive opioid overdose should be considered high risk and receive interventions such as being offered buprenorphine, counseling, and referral to treatment before ED discharge.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Overdose / mortality*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid