Opioids are generally prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain. They include drugs, such as oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, morphine and fentanyl, as well as heroin, which is an illegal drug. These medications provide a sense of well-being and pleasure because they stimulate certain regions of the brain that involve the reward system. Since opioids work on patients by masking the pain and not by curing it, there is an increased risk for opioid abuse.
Opioid addiction is a serious global problem that has affected the socioeconomic fabric of all societies. It is estimated that 2.1 million people in the United States alone were suffering from substance use disorders (SUD) due to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012. Additionally, approximately 467,000 people were addicted to heroin. The spine-chilling data related to opioid crisis presents the frightening effects of these opioids. And it is largely to be blamed on the practice of prescribing opioids liberally by doctors and dentists despite knowing it might fuel addiction and overdosing.
In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died due to opioids, either prescription opioids, heroin or more powerful synthetic drugs like fentanyl in many cases. One of the facts hidden behind these statistics is the incredible increase in the total number of suicides. Many of the above-mentioned deaths were far from being accidental and were carried out with the motive of suicide.
Accidents or suicides?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide has been listed as the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. Although depression and other mood disorders tend to increase the risk of suicide, alcohol and drug abuse are also the potential triggers. In fact, the level of substance abuse is a stronger predictor of suicide than a psychiatric diagnosis.
In a study published in the journal Addiction, comprising about five million veterans receiving Veterans Health Administration (VHA) care, the researchers reported that veterans diagnosed with SUD, specifically opioid use disorder (OUD), were at an increased risk of suicide. The risk was higher in those suffering from OUD, i.e., twice greater in men and eight times greater in women. Some findings though disquieting could tempt a person to justify them based on the demographics of the population under consideration, viz., veterans. However, other studies show that these findings are not restricted to only this segment.
Another study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, comprised 41,053 participants from the 2014 National Survey of Drug Use and Health. This sample was designed to represent more accurately the entire U.S. population. The findings revealed that there was a 40 to 60 percent increased risk for suicidal ideation among those who abused prescription opioids. Moreover, the risk for suicide planning and attempting was higher among those who abused opioids weekly or more compared to those who abused it less often. The rate of suicide planning increased by 75 percent and attempt to commit suicide increased by 200 percent than those not abusing opioids.
A third meta-analytical study, reviewed in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, compared the risk of death in individuals suffering from OUD with those from the general population. Compared to the general population, the researchers found that those who had OUD witnessed a 13-fold increase in the risk for death due to suicide. Such findings point toward a deep link between opioid abuse and suicide.
Prevention begins with treatment
Very few people would list suicide among the list of concerns for someone under treatment for prescription drug addiction. A grave injury or accident or even a drug overdose would most likely feature higher. However, suicide has increasingly become the tragic fate of many people struggling with opioid addiction. One plausible explanation for this could be that people take far greater risks than they would ordinarily take when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
If you or your loved one is addicted to prescription drugs, contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline to get assistance in finding the best prescription drug abuse treatment centers in the U.S. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557 or chat online with our representatives to know about the most reputable and comprehensive prescription drug abuse treatment centers in your area.