It’s long been suspected that the nation’s unprecedented drug overdose epidemic and sharply rising suicide rates are linked.
Now health researchers are finding concrete evidence that the two preventable causes of death — which are among the top 10 in the United States — are intrinsically related:
- People with an opioid addiction are at much higher risk for suicide than the rest of the population; and
- opioid use was a contributing factor in more than 40% of all suicide and overdose deaths in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Note: this identifies opioids only as *contributing* to overdose deaths] Continue reading
Suicide Statistics — AFSP (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention) – Apr 2019
While this data is the most accurate we have, we estimate the numbers to be higher. Stigma surrounding suicide leads to underreporting, and data collection methods critical to suicide prevention need to be improved.
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US
- In 2017, 47,173 Americans died by suicide
- In 2017, there were an estimated 1,400,000 suicide attempts
- In 2015, suicide and self-injury cost the US $69 Billion
It’s a strange coincidence that almost the same number of people died from all drug overdoses as from suicide – especially since it is suspected that some overdosed intentionally and would count in both tallies. Continue reading
Could CDC Guidelines Be Driving Some Opioid Patients to Suicide? – Rolling Stone – by EJ Dickson – Mar 2019
Some doctors have issues with the suggestions made by the CDC for how opioids should be prescribed for pain.
Since the Centers for Disease Control issued its guidelines dictating appropriate opioid prescription rates and dosages in 2016, opioid prescriptions have declined significantly. Overdose deaths have also been on the decline, though some health experts believe that effect might be temporary.
Two groups that have not benefited from increasing public health efforts to stem the opioid crisis, however, is people living with chronic pain and their health care providers. Continue reading
When Is Depression a Terminal Illness? Deliberative Suicide in Chronic Mental Illness – by Constance E. George, MD, MA – Jun 2016
In this discussion about the validity of suicide in patients with untreatable depression, it struck me that it could just as well apply to patients with chronic pain, untreatable without opioids, when opioids are no longer allowed.
This article concludes:
“So, an important lesson … has to do with understanding that mental illness can be a terminal illness and that the concept of hope has therapeutic limitations.” Continue reading
Suicide prevention experts: What you say (and don’t say) could save a person’s life – Alia E. Dastagir, USA TODAY – Sept. 2018
On average, there are more than 128 suicides per day in the United States, attempted by people with and without known mental health conditions. USA TODAY.
It’s crazy that even the most biased and highest estimates (by the conflation of any and all drugs) of overdose deaths are only about half the number of suicides, but no big money groups or politicians are advocating for “suicide prevention”.
So suicide deaths are almost twice as common as “opioid overdose” deaths, yet very little is being done to address this much more serious issue. Continue reading
Opioid Use, Misuse, and Suicidal Behaviors in a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Adults. – PubMed – NCBI – just the abstract available – Mar 2019
This study proves that simply using opioids to treat a medical condition does not lead to increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Prior research has shown associations between opioid misuse and suicidal behaviors, but the relationship between medical opioid use and suicidal behaviors is not known.
We assessed associations between opioid use and misuse to suicidal ideation, suicide plans, and suicide attempts among adults 18-64 years old (n=86,186) using nationally representative cross-sectional data from the 2015-2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Continue reading
Managing Chronic Pain, Depression & Antidepressants: Issues & Relationships – Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center – by Michael Clark, M.D., M.P.H. – 1995, updated August 15, 2017
Signs, Symptoms, and Prevalence
In several studies of patients presenting to clinics specializing in the evaluation of pain, the prevalence of psychiatric conditions was systematically assessed.
Affective and anxiety disorders were the most commonly found (Reich et al. 1983). For example, the prevalence of major depression in patients with chronic low back pain is 3-4 times greater than in the general population (Sullivan et al. 1992). However, the causal relationship between these syndromes remains controversial. Continue reading
Suicide fascinates us. It is at once appalling and yet, in the darkest places in our minds, appealing. It is the most damaging sort of death.
A child’s suicide is a parent’s worst nightmare, and a parent’s marks their children for life. It is a manifestation not just of individual anguish but also of a collective failure: if society is too painful to live in, perhaps we are all culpable.
The suicide rate in America is up by 18% since 2000. Continue reading
In 2016, 42,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose, according to the CDC. In the past, just a tiny fraction of those deaths would have been counted as suicides.
But now, , writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, Maria A. Oquendo, MD, PhD, the chair of the Psychiatry Department in the Perelman School of Medicine and Nora D. Volkow, MD, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that 20% to 30% of these deaths (8,400-12,600) were likely by suicide. Dr. Oquendo told Pain Medicine News that the rate could be as high as 40% (16,800).
Pain Medicine News editorial advisory board member Lynn R. Webster, MD, believes death by suicide may be even more prevalent among opioid overdoses than Drs. Oquendo and Volkow suggest. [see Suicide Due to Chronic Pain]
Here are excerpts from 4 more articles showing that many suicides classified as “overdose” deaths are likely due to chronic pain.
The first article I include below started the “official awareness” that many opioid-overdose deaths may have been due to unbearable pain. Patients are committing suicide when their pain medications are taken away by the over-zealous promotion of anti-opioid policies.
With a powerful and well-known author like the head of NIDA, Dr. Nora Volkow, we can hope that other professionals will take note. Continue reading