Causes of Death after Nonfatal Opioid Overdose

September 28, 2018

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark Research

People who experience a nonfatal opioid overdose are at high risk for premature mortality in the following year, and are at particularly high risk for suicide death.

Researchers used 2001 to 2007 data from 76,325 Medicaid beneficiaries receiving inpatient, emergency, or outpatient treatment for a nonfatal opioid overdose in 45 states. The researchers compared the mortality risk of these patients with age, sex, and race/ethnicity matched controls. They found that there were 5,194 deaths from all causes in the 12 months after treatment for a nonfatal opioid overdose, which is more than 20 times higher than the expected number of deaths. There were 215 suicide deaths in that period, which is more than 25 times higher than expected.

This study is limited by its use of older data. Additional research is needed to determine how changes in drug use patterns and more recent overdose response efforts might affect the results. However, these findings shed light on the importance of providing coordinated medical, substance use, and mental health interventions following a nonfatal overdose.

Olfson, M., Crystal, S., Wall, M., Wang, S., Liu, S.-M., & Blanco, C. (2018). Causes of death after nonfatal opioid overdose. JAMA Psychiatry, 75(8), 820–827.