Opioid Overdose and Suicide Linkage and Prevention

Date: 
06/20/2019

According to a 2019 review article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Understanding Links Among Opioid Use, Overdose, and Suicide, the number of suicides and unintentional overdose deaths increased from 41,364 in 2000 to 110,749 in 2017. People who use opioids are at risk of unintentional overdoses and suicide. More than 40 percent of suicide and overdose deaths in 2017 involved opioids. A retrospective study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry also found that those who used psychotropic medication to attempt suicide were likely to have had prescribed access to the drug.

Primary care providers often lead the fight against suicide, as stated in a 2012 article Addressing Suicidality in Primary Care Settings. Efforts are increasing to provide resources on suicide and suicide assessment for use by primary care providers and others. However, screening alone is not enough to lower suicide rates unless it happens in an integrated system that can help connect those who need it to mental health services. This Suicide Prevention Toolkit for Primary Care Practices provides resources for all primary care providers to overcome barriers to identifying and treating patients at risk for suicide.