As the opioid epidemic rages on and thousands of lives have been claimed by fatal opioid overdoses, one aspect of this national crisis is often overshadowed: the number of people who take their own lives via intentional overdose. Perhaps no drug causes so many suicides by overdose as opioids. Although it is difficult to assess whether opioid overdoses are intentional or accidental, experts estimate as many as 30% of fatal opioid overdoses may have been suicides. Further research has revealed that those who misuse prescription opioids are 40 to 60% more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
This question doesn’t have a cut-and-dry answer. One thing is for sure, though: Overdose suicides are more common than previously thought, simply because people with substance abuse disorders (SUD) are much more likely to have co-occurring mental illness. The reverse is also true, as approximately half of all individuals with a mental illness will have SUD at some point in their lives.
Another reason opioid addicts may be more likely to take their own lives via overdose is because many were originally prescribed the medication for a legitimate chronic pain issue. They may also be depressed or frustrated because their chronic pain isn’t taken seriously by doctors, who dismiss and stigmatize them as addicts, which compounds their difficulties. Those who suffer from chronic pain, the most common reason people are prescribed opioids, often have co-occurring depression and may commit suicide simply to escape from their physical and mental suffering.
At Turning Point, our addiction specialists know how difficult it is to admit you have a substance abuse problem and need help getting better. It takes great strength and determination to admit to yourself and others that you are addicted to opioids, but it is a step in the journey to recovery. We can help you achieve and maintain sobriety and avoid becoming an unfortunate statistic in today’s opioid crisis.