New Evidence: High-Risk Opioid Use Is Driving Increasing Infectious Disease Incidence

Opioid Substitution Treatment (OST, MAT) is Worsening, Not Treating America’s Lethal Epidemics

by Clark Miller

February 12, 2020

Magdalena Cerda, a director of the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy at NYU Langone Health who did not work on the study, told Newsweek she was surprised by the “stark differences in the incidence rate of drug abuse-related infectious endocarditis, compared to non-drug abuse-related infectious endocarditis. There is a particularly huge spike that occurs between 2010 and 2016, which coincides with the spike in heroin and fentanyl-related overdoses.”

coincides with the spike in heroin and fentanyl-related overdoses

And – coincides with significant expansion nationally in public-healthcare-funded provision to high-risk opioid users of the medical “gold standard” opioid substitution treatment (OST) using methadone or buprenorphine.

SAMSHA bupe client trends2

Think about it. We are seeing increases in incidence of infectious diseases caused by injection of opioids. That use of opioids is high-risk. If OST provides benefit to at-risk users, the only mechanism is by reducing risk and associated problems related to opioid use.

Trends of decreased incidence of an injection-related infectious disease could be attributed to a variety of factors including: changes in public health, prevention, or medical interventions; decrease in high-risk opioid use including use by injection; clean needle exchanges; behavioral health treatments; others. Identifying the factor(s) any decreases could be confidently attributed to would require that multiple congruent, well-designed studies and other lines of evidence point to those factors and not others.

Increases in incidence, like those we’re seeing, are different. If increases of significant magnitude occur over the same time period that an intervention, like the medical OST fix, hypothesized to be a “treatment” or protective factor has also increased, then that constitutes strong evidence against that intervention as beneficial in reducing high-risk use.

In a variety of settings and nationally, high-risk opioid use as measured by non-lethal overdose incidence has worsened with increasing provision of the medical model fix, against prediction if OST provides benefit. Another, independent measure of high-risk use – incidence of opioid- and injection-related infectious diseases including endocarditis – also shows an OST-invalidating pattern of increase in response to large increases over decades of provison of opioid substitution medicine.

Drug abuse is a major risk factor for IE, and patients who have IE from intravenous DA have significant morbidity and mortality. Regardless of DA, IE is a life‐threatening condition with an associated mortality of 10% to 30%  and has been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. Admissions for IE in patients aged <30 years with intravenous DA increased from 11% in 2008 to 27% in 2014 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Multiple Cause‐of‐Death database. Additionally, it was demonstrated that there was an alarming 2‐fold increase in IE deaths among young people (aged <35 years), white, and with intravenous DA from 1999 to 2016 compared with all‐cause IE mortality.

. . .


DA‐IE is rising at an alarming rate in the United States. All regions of the United States are affected, with the Midwest having the highest increase in rate. Young‐adult, poor, white males were the most affected.

There is no need to scramble to understand these trends.


They were predictable from everything we’ve known about the provision of a reductionist medical model fix for the complex non-medical problem of compulsive substance use and affirmed by consistently accumulating evidence that the diversion of public health resources to invalidated opioid substitution approaches and away from evidence-based therapies is driving and worsening illicit, high-risk opioid use and lethal epidemics.

And as in the fabrication of lethally false public health disinformation required to allow runaway, medically inappropriate medical distribution of Schedule II opioids generating today’s lethal crisis, the branding of publicly-funded distribution of diverted and abused opioids as a medical “treatment” has required a collaboration of media with top medical and research institutions to obscure research results and defects and create the necessary fiction.


On any critical evaluation of the research, that fiction unravels.


The reasons are explained and discussed in this post and additional posts at A Critical Discourse – each post with detailed explanation linking to primary research and other sources.


On analysis of the evidence, naloxone use – its reduction of deaths acting and measured directly, unlike presumed benefit from OST – directly accounts for all apparent changes (= decreases) in opioid-related overdose deaths. This result holds when results are available on a local level (e.g. here, here, here, and here) and when national data are examined


As described in detail in this, this, and other posts, that is the mechanism by which OST could possibly provide benefit. When outcomes are critically analyzed, the evidence points consistently to provision of the medical model fix, “treatment”, for problem opioid use  worsening, not protective for, high-risk use and associated harms including opioid-related mortality. Because high-risk use, measured as non-lethal overdose incidence (eliminating the confounding, established effects of expanding naloxone use and campaigns) has increased nationally and consistently in multiple locales where data are available as dose of the medical cure increases.

And as explained and established by multiple lines of evidence in this new post, and this, emergence over past years of the potent opioid fentanyl in street economies of illicit opioid use does not qualify those invalidating results – fentanyl cannot explain away the failure of increased provision of the medical “treatment” to reduce high-risk opioid use.

Incidence of opioid injection-related infectious disease, like endocarditis, is a direct measure of high-risk use of opioids

As we would predict from everything we know about problem substance use and the failure of medical approaches to provide benefit for that non-medical problem, those diseases are increasing in prevalence.

That’s been true in Ontario, Canada and in Columbus, Ohio.

In Franklin County Ohio –

In Franklin County, Ohio, cases of drug-injection-related infectious endocarditis, a measure of injection drug use, have skyrocketed over the years 2012 – 2017.

Specifically, the increase in incidence of those cases increased 436 percent, most of that increase attributable to use of heroin by injection.

Investigators found that overall admissions for infective endocarditis at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center increased 101% from 2012 to 2017, with most of the increase coming from the 436% jump in drug-related cases. The research, which was presented at the American College of Cardiology (ACC) 2019 Annual Scientific Sessions in New Orleans, LA, found that most of the cases of endocarditis related to drug use involved heroin.

Significant, extended increases in medical provision of buprenorphine and methadone OST should necessarily have resulted in the opposite outcome – decreases over the same time period of high-risk opioid use . . . unless . . . as is generally and predictably the case, the provision of a medical model “treatment”, unsupported and indicated against by research evidence for an entirely non-medical condition – compulsive problem opioid use – has predictably resulted in a worsening of an iatrogenic lethal opioid crisis rather than providing benefit.

SAMSHA bupe client trends2
Endocarditis Infect and high risk opioid use

In Kentucky, a worsening Hepatitis C outbreak is attributed to high-risk opioid use, by injection –

Constituting a measure of worsening high-risk opioid use despite steady, significant increases in provision of the medical treatment fix for high-risk opioid use.

There are signs of a similar pattern in Indiana.

These consistently accumulating results – high-risk opioid use increasing in response to increasing provision of the medical model “treatment” for high-risk opioid use – predictably invalidate and expose the fabricated evidence base for the publicly-funded medical fix for the non-medical condition of compulsive substance use.

For rates of opioid injection-related infectious disease, as with increasing rates of another measure of high-risk opioid use – non-lethal overdose – as provision of the medical cure increases, predictable, invalidating outcomes and patterns are emerging.

Hep C, endocarditis, and other infectious diseases are on the rise in the U.S.  caused by unrelenting, continuing increases in high-risk opioid use, that high-risk use generated by iatrogenic (medical provider-caused) runaway prescription of opioids over decades against all indications, for the non-medical condition of common chronic pain, now driven and worsened by the runaway dispersal of addictive and diverted opioids (methadone, buprenorphine) constructed without evidence of benefit as a medical “treatment” and fueling economies of abuse and high-risk use. And funded fraudulently with public healthcare money.

Against continued rationalizations (collaborative media/industry lies) for the failures of the fabricated medical “fix” for the medically-generated lethal opioid crisis – the increases in injection-related infectious diseases provide determinative confirmation of the predictable harms and failure of never-validated medical fixes for the non-medical condition of compulsive opioid and other substance use.

The more gold standard medical cure applied to “diseased” brains, the more high-risk use and deaths predictably mount.