Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the United States, there have been concerns about the potential impact of the pandemic on persons with opioid use disorder. Shelter-in-place (SIP) orders, which aimed to reduce the spread and scope of the virus, likely also impacted this patient population. This study aims to assess the role of the COVID-19 pandemic on the incidence of opioid overdose before and after a SIP order.
A retrospective review of the incidence of opioid overdoses in an urban three-hospital system was conducted. Comparisons were made between the first 100 days of a city-wide SIP order during the COVID-19 pandemic and the 100 days during the COVID-19 pandemic preceding the SIP order (Pre-SIP). Differences in observed incidence and expected incidence during the SIP period were evaluated using a Fisher’s Exact test.
Total patient visits decreased 22% from 46,078 during the Pre-SIP period to 35,971 during the SIP period. A total of 1551 opioid overdoses were evaluated during the SIP period, compared to 1665 opioid overdoses during the Pre-SIP period, consistent with a 6.8% decline. A Fisher’s Exact Test demonstrated a p < 0.0001, with a corresponding Odds Ratio of 1.20 with a 95% confidence interval (1.12;1.29).
The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated SIP order were associated with a statistically and clinically significant increase in the proportion of opioid overdoses in relation to the overall change in total ED visits.

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