OBJECTIVE: Multiple states have reported increases in opioid overdose deaths during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, however little is known about opioid-related presentations to the emergency department (ED).
METHODS: This was a time series analysis of visits to 7 EDs in greater Chicago, Illinois from October 20 , 2019 to July 25 , 2020 . We compared the number of ED visits for opioid-related diagnoses in the time period preceding the World Health Organization pandemic declaration (prepandemic period, October 20 , 2019-July 3 , 2020) to the time period following the World Health Organization declaration (pandemic period, March 8 , 2020 to July 25 , 2020) using a single-group interrupted time series analysis with Newey-West standard errors . We also present data on alcohol-related ED visits for comparison .
RESULTS: We evaluated a total of 177,405 visits across the 7 EDs during the study period . The mean number of weekly ED visits in the prepandemic and pandemic periods was 4841 and 4029 weekly visits, respectively . In the interrupted time series analysis, there was no significant immediate effect of the pandemic start on opioid-related ED visits (-0.44 visits per 1000 ED visits , 95% CI -2.47 to 1.58, Pâ=â0.66), however, there was a significant immediate effect of the pandemic start on alcohol-related ED visits (-4.1 , 95% CI: -8.25 to -0.01, Pâ <â0.05).
CONCLUSIONS: Despite reductions in overall ED visit volumes and alcohol-related visits during COVID-19, the number of opioid-related visits was not significantly reduced during the early pandemic . These data reinforce the need to provide comprehensive treatment services for opioid use disorder during the co-occurring COVID-19 and opioid crises.