Many Opioid Overdoses May Be Suicides
May 11, 2018
Many opioid overdose deaths may actually be suicides, according to the authors of a recent New England Journal of Medicine article. Describing suicide as a “silent contributor” to opioid overdose deaths, they call for a better understanding of the link between them. In the absence of a suicide note or depression diagnosis, it is hard to establish a drug overdose as a suicide, leaving many classified as “undetermined.” It is critical to examine the association between opioid abuse and suicide risk in order to target prevention efforts, said coauthor and University of Pennsylvania psychiatry professor Maria Oquendo. A person with opioid abuse issues who is suicidal needs different treatment than one who is not suicidal, she explained. Oquendo recommended that health care providers screen for suicide risk in patients who are prescribed opioids and those treated for overdoses in emergency departments. Jerry Reed, EDC’s senior vice president for practice leadership and Suicide, Violence, and Injury Prevention Portfolio lead, advised families of people struggling with opioid abuse to “try to stand by them. They need connection, support, and love from the people around them.”
Spark Extra! Read the NEJM article.