The number of people in the U.S. who deliberately kill themselves with drug overdoses is “profoundly under-reported,” according to a new study.
Unless there’s a suicide note or a carefully documented history of mental illness, coroners and medical examiners very frequently categorize heroin opioid deaths and deaths caused by combining alcohol and pills as “accidental” or as being of “undetermined cause.” This is in marked contrast to self-inflicted deaths caused by hanging, gunshot wounds, etc.
The study examined CDC records including death certificates, law enforcement documents, and medical examiner and coroner reports. The conclusion was that a very large number of addicts (and others) are using drugs to commit suicide, but the extent of the problem is grossly understated due to a common false inference that these deaths are the result of an accident.
Mental illness (including addiction) is a serious problem, but it may be that the seriousness of the issue is not being fully recognized because of a mistaken emphasis on the dangerousness of drugs as opposed to the dangerousness of a treatable condition.