Suicide By Opioid: an Uncounted Tragedy

Suicide By Opioid: New Research Suggests Overdoses Should Be Classified As Self-Harm | Kaiser Health News – By Rachel Bluth – Aug 2018

There has been a steady stream of headlines declaring that life expectancy in the United States is decreasing. And the often-cited reason is the climbing number of opioid-related deaths.

Those two facts piqued the interest of a group of researchers who sought to reframe the way these trends can be viewed.

“We have a problem that is otherwise being underestimated,” said Ian Rockett, an injury epidemiologist and professor emeritus at West Virginia University.

Suicide rates have been steadily climbing, Rockett said, but their numbers are likely even higher.  

He said too often opioid-related drug overdoses aren’t classified as suicides, and he thinks they should be.

These deaths are often deemed by medical examiners as “accidental injury deaths” unless a suicide note is found.

This classification doesn’t take into account that suicide and drug overdoses both arise from “purposeful” behaviors.

To get at the root of that problem, Rockett and his colleagues developed a model of self-injury mortality that factors together both categories — overdose deaths and suicides.

This combined classification “is intended to promote prevention and earlier interventions” by recognizing common, preexisting mental health issues that could have been in play, the researchers wrote.

“By always separating drug deaths from suicide is to underestimate the mental health crisis,” Rockett said. “These are all mental health issues, and they need to be on the front burner.”

The report, published Monday in the British journal Injury Prevention, shows that together these deaths would become the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., just surpassing diabetes..

It also focuses attention from lawmakers and health practitioners on the nation’s mental health crisis and how both suicide and overdose death rates highlight the system’s gaps. Rockett conducted a similar study two years earlier.

“When a death is an accident, there’s a tendency for people to say, ‘Nothing we could do about that.’ By putting the emphasis on self-injury, we draw greater attention to the problem and particularly as an overriding mental health issue,” Rockett said.

According to CDC data, the incidence of suicide increased from 10.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2000 to 13.5 per 100,000 in 2016.

Rates of drug overdose deaths have increased threefold, from 6.1 out of 100,000 deaths in 1999 to 19.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2016.

Rockett found that in 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, self-injury deaths accounted for 29.1 out of every 100,000 deaths.

But not everyone is sold on Rockett’s concept.

There’s overlap between drug overdose deaths and suicides, Anderson said, adding that suicides by overdose are underestimated in general.

“I don’t dispute [Rockett’s] conclusions,” he said, although he suggested not all overdoses should be considered the same as suicides.

I agree. With super-potent fentanyl now contaminating so much of the illicit drug supply, accidental overdoses are common too.

“By lumping all of them into one category we may miss some important distinctions that need to be made,” he added.

3 thoughts on “Suicide By Opioid: an Uncounted Tragedy

  1. Scott michaels

    So does this mean kaiser will offer its patients the stablizing doses back to its patients before they were forced to taper and are now living in severe pain, bedridden and only praying that they get treated properly once again. Or will kaiser allow those patients to also take thier lives because the forever pain is overwhelming and IT IS MEDICALLY NECESSARY AS IT WAS BEFORE THE CDC FALSIFIED NON SCIENTIFIC GUIDELINES WERE ENACTED.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. leejcaroll

    very interesting. This issue of the overdoes and being opoid related, as re use and to condemn has been an issue for some time, mainly what I have seen is the but in combination with what that led to the death as opposed to only an poioid(s). This is a very intriguing question.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Chronic Pain and Suicide: a Deadly Link | EDS and Chronic Pain News & Info

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