Publication date: Dec 18, 2019
In findings published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Columbia University, as well as the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Institute for Drug Abuse, report that the number of deaths attributed to opioid abuse or misuse — including accidental overdoses and suicides — increased by 500 percent between 2000 and 2017, the last year for which data were available.
“Viewing the threat posed by opioid abuse and suicide as distinct, though sometimes related, conditions could change how people with opioid use disorders and their families understand opioid addictions and how they seek treatment for them,” study co-author Mark Olfson, the Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Psychiatry, Medicine and Law at Columbia University, told UPI.
However, the new findings suggest the percentage is much lower, which “runs counter to a growing tendency to view opioid overdose and suicide as intertwined ‘deaths of despair,'” Olfson said.
“Knowing that the actual percentage and number of suicide deaths among opioid overdose deaths is much lower does not relieve clinicians who care for patients with opioid use disorders from evaluating their patient’s mental health, but it puts the primary focus of care more squarely on the patient’s addiction,” Olfson said.
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