Characteristics of heroin-dependent patients seeking asthma care in the ED.

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Characteristics of heroin-dependent patients seeking asthma care in the ED.

Am J Emerg Med. 2016 May;34(5):895-8

Authors: Weeks MA, Clark EP, Mycyk MB

BACKGROUND: Limited data suggest that heroin worsens asthma severity, but little is known about heroin-dependent patients who seek emergency department (ED) care for asthma.
OBJECTIVES: To describe what heroin-dependent patients know about their asthma and how they use health care resources.
METHODS: A prospective study of heroin-dependent patients seeking care for "asthma" at an urban ED with 130000 annual visits was conducted. Eligible subjects were English-speaking heroin-dependent adults seeking care for mild to moderate asthma symptoms. A closed-format survey instrument to assess opioid use, asthma knowledge, and health care use was developed by content experts, piloted for study performance, revised, and then administered to eligible patients prior to ED discharge. Descriptive analysis was done.
RESULTS: Thirty subjects participated. Mean age was 47.5 years; 21 (70%) were male. Most used heroin several times weekly. Intranasal was the most common route (93%). Almost half (47%) stated that their asthma was diagnosed in the ED, 13% by a primary care physician, 13% by a lung specialist, and 27% did not know how diagnosed. The ED was used as the primary source for asthma medications in 73% cases; 43% used the ED for breathing issues at least once per month. Most subjects (77%) felt that heroin worsened their asthma symptoms. Only 7 (23%) also abused prescription opioids, and only 7 (23%) knew about prescription naloxone.
CONCLUSION: Patients with heroin dependence frequently use the ED for their health care needs related to asthma. Most do not have other health care providers, most have limited health literacy, and all would benefit from referral to a primary care provider and substance abuse resources.

PMID: 26947370 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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