By Dr. Brian McDonough

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The opioid epidemic has been making news and gaining medical attention over the past several months.

On the heels of these reports, there is a new study from the annals of the American Thoracic Society.

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According to the report, the number of deaths associated with opioid overdose in hospital intensive care units has doubled over the past seven years.

The cost of treating these victims of overdoses has skyrocketed as well.

We can measure the admissions to intensive care units, and we found that over that same time the number of admissions has increased dramatically.

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Researchers at Harvard say we have a new level of crisis associated with overdoses of prescription and illicit opioids.

The report also finds that, despite all the care we can provide in the intensive care unit, often it is too late to help many of these patients.

They need mechanical ventilation, acute dialysis, life support, and round-the-clock care.

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The key is getting to the problem early and preventing it from happening in the first place.