Amid Philly opioid crisis, infections from IV drug use skyrocket

Pat Loeb
February 12, 2020 - 4:00 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — There's a grim new measurement for the severity of Philadelphia's opioid epidemic: A skyrocketing number of infections have been related to IV drug use. 

A new Philadelphia Department of Public Health study shows some infection rates have more than tripled among drug users. Sepsis in that population, for instance, went up by 253% between 2013 and 2018. 

Epidemiologist Lia Pizzicato says it's one of the less well-known consequences. 

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"A lot of time we look at overdose death as the main outcome of the opioid crisis but there is a lot of additional morbidity associated with the crisis and that includes bacterial infection," Pizzicato said.

Pizzicato says the infections often put patients in the hospital, which would be a valuable opportunity to get them in treatment, but a large number leave against medical advice because they go into withdrawal. 

"We really encourage adequately treating withdrawal symptoms in the hospital so people are more likely to stay and finish their treatment while they're hospitalized," Pizzicato added.

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CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, Lia Pizzicato's name was misspelled.