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Opioid-Related Suicides Down, Rate of Unintentional Deaths Up

Crises of opioid overdose deaths and suicide do not appear closely linked

FRIDAY, Dec. 20, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The rate of opioid-related suicides as well as unintentional deaths significantly increased from 2000 to 2017, according to a research letter published in the Dec. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mark Olfson, M.D., from the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, and colleagues used the National Vital Statistics System mortality multiple cause-of-death data to evaluate trends in U.S. drug overdose deaths involving opioids in individuals ≥15 years old, certified as unintentional, suicide, or undetermined intent.

The researchers found that in 2017, there were 47,506 total opioid deaths, including 43,036 unintentional deaths (90.6 percent), 1,884 suicides (4 percent), and 2,586 deaths of undetermined intent (5.4 percent). Suicide decedents tended to be older, female, and white compared with decedents of undetermined intent. The percentage of opioid-related deaths that were unintentional increased during the study period, from 73.8 to 90.6 percent, while suicides decreased from 9 to 4 percent and deaths of undetermined intent decreased from 17.2 to 5.4 percent. There were significant increases in opioid-related suicide rates for men, women, all racial/ethnic groups, and all age groups, except between the ages of 35 and 44 years.

“While the public health crises of opioid overdose deaths and suicide do not appear closely linked, it is nevertheless possible that the national increase in suicides may be partly related to increasing opioid overdose deaths,” the authors write.

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