UT Tyler Research Addresses Effects of Opioid Crisis on Healthcare Resources

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Publication Date: 10/30/2019

Dr. Justin Reinert, clinical assistant professor in the UT Tyler Fisch College of Pharmacy, is shedding light into the opioid epidemic through his research on heroin overdoses.

His research identifies the attributes of patients who overdosed on heroin and best describes the ramifications of heroin overdoses on healthcare resources.

“The findings showed that heroin overdose commanded a huge array of resources – specifically, the need for ICU admission in severe overdoses, mechanical ventilation and the placement of a special intravenous line to facilitate medication delivery,” Reinert said. “It also highlighted the need for resource allocation in keeping these patients out of the hospital and for substance abuse community outreach programs.”

He discovered that patients who were adequately treated with proper medications – known as reversal agents – before coming to the hospital were typically hospitalized for a shorter amount of time, though this was not definitively confirmed, according to Reinert. In addition, patients who were discharged from the hospital after receiving services were less likely to return, as opposed to those patients who were only seen in and discharged from the emergency department.

“Healthcare resources are considered scarce. High levels of care for a heroin overdose means we can’t provide those same services to another non addiction patient who may need them,” Reinert said. “If we educate patients and provide them with the proper resources, such as counseling services and medications, we can prevent them from having to be in the hospital in the first place.”

Based on Reinert’s evaluation of 14 East Texas counties, most patients were between 35 to 39 years old, Caucasian and had a history of previous illicit substance abuse. The majority of the data came from a mid-sized urban demographic.

On a national level, Reinert said the United States is entering what is considered “Phase Two” of the opioid epidemic. For the first time in years, deaths from heroin, fentanyl and prescription opioids are falling dramatically; however, deaths from other lesser-known substances both over-the-counter or prescribed, are growing.

Going forward, the professor will continue his research in the hopes to better understand how to clinically manage overdoses of these substances and to provide clinicians the tools necessary to start combating them.

“The overall message rings true with other drugs of abuse in East Texas as well as numerous other public health endeavors,” he said. “It’s all about getting patients healthy and giving them access to adequate resources to keeping them healthy.”

The University has been instrumental in bringing the discussion on opioid misuse and addiction in East Texas to the forefront. Many other UT Tyler faculty and students from both the Fisch College of Pharmacy and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences are helping combat the epidemic on the regional level through participation in related research and communitywide educational events.

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