In lethal opioid overdoses, how do you differentiate between suicide by overdose and “accidental” overdoses?

Persons with opioid use disorder (OUD) and persons with chronic pain prescribed chronic opioid medications are at a significantly increased risk of death by opioid overdose as well as death by suicide. These groups are also known to underestimate and minimize their overdose risks. It is important to develop comprehensive strategies to prevent death by opioid overdoses, for accidental or suicide overdoses. This is done collaboratively by patients, their families and their doctors. Opioid overdose prevention and reversal training for patients, their families and their clinicians and ongoing communications between all involved parties is of paramount importance.

For more information, please view the Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2018).

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