Comparison of Hospital Claims and Poison Center Data to Evaluate Health Impact of Opioids, Cannabis and Synthetic Cannabinoids


Over the past 10 years, opioids and cannabis have garnered significant attention due to misuse and legalization trends. Different datasets and surveillance mechanisms can lead to different conclusions due to a variety of factors. The primary objective of this study was to compare and describe trends of opioid, cannabis, and synthetic cannabinoid-related healthcare encounters and poison center (PC) cases in Colorado, a state that has legalized cannabis.


This was a retrospective study comparing hospital claims data (Colorado Hospital Association (CHA)) and poison center cases to describe opioid, cannabis and synthetic cannabinoid-related healthcare encounters and exposures in Colorado from 2013 to 2017 using related genetic codes and International Statistical Classification of Disease codes.


Both datasets observed increases in cannabis related encounters and exposures after recreational cannabis legalization in 2014. CHA reported an increase for cannabis-related ER visits from 14,109 in 2013 to 18,118 in 2017 while PC noted a 74.4% increase in cannabis-related cases (125 to 218). CHA inpatient visits associated with cannabis also increased (8311 in 2013 to 14,659 in 2017). On the other hand, Opioid-related exposures to the PC fell (1092 in 2013 to 971 in 2017) while both Opioid-related ER visits (8580 in 2013 to 12,928 in 2017) and inpatient visits in CHA increased (9084 in 2013 to 13,205).


This study demonstrates the differences in surveillance methodology for concurrent drug abuse epidemics using hospital claims and PC data. Both systems provide incomplete reports, but in combination can provide a more complete picture.

The full study is available in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine.