A new data analysis funded by the National Institutes of Health finds patients who visited the emergency department for an opioid overdose are 100 times more likely to die by drug overdose in the year after being discharged and 18 times more likely to die by suicide relative to the general population. Additionally, in the year after emergency department discharge, patients who visited for a sedative/hypnotic overdose had overdose death rates 24 times higher, and suicide rates 9 times higher, than the general population. The findings, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, highlight the need for interventions that reduce suicide and overdose risk that can be implemented when patients come to the emergency department.
“We knew that nonfatal opioid and sedative/hypnotic drug overdoses were a major cause of disease. What these new findings show is that overdose patients also face an exceptionally high risk of subsequent death—not just from an unintentional overdose, but also from suicide, non-suicide accidents, and natural causes,” said Sidra Goldman-Mellor, Ph.D., lead study author and assistant professor of public health at the University of California, Merced.