Suicide by Opioid: Exploring the Intentionality of the Act

Pergolizzi J, Breve F, Magnusson P,  Nalamasu R, LeQuang JA, Varrassi G.
Suicide by Opioid: Exploring the Intentionality of the Act.
Cureus 13(9): e18084. doi:10.7759/cureus.18084
(September 18, 2021)


Opioid toxicity can result in life-threatening respiratory depression. Opioid-overdose mortality in the United States is high and increasing, but it is difficult to determine what proportion of those deaths might actually be suicides. The exact number of Americans who died of an opioid overdose but whose deaths might be classified as suicide remains unknown. It is important to differentiate between those who take opioids with the deliberate and unequivocal objective of committing suicide, that is, those with active intent, from those with passive intent. The passive-intent group understands the risks of opioid consumption and takes dangerous amounts, but with a more ambiguous attitude toward suicide. Thus, among decedents of opioid overdose, a large population dies by accident, whereas a small population dies intending to commit suicide; but between them exists a sub-population with equivocal intentions, waxing and waning between their desire to live and the carelessness about death. There may be a passive as well as active intent to commit suicide, but less is known about the passive motivation. It is important for public health efforts aimed at reducing both suicides and opioid-use disorder to better understand the range of motivations behind opioid-related suicides and how to combat them.


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