Deaths by drug overdose are more likely to be classified as accidental or of undetermined cause, compared to deaths by gunshot or hanging, say US researchers who conclude that drug suicides may be underestimated.
With drug overdoses, there are often few clues to suggest suicide, such as a suicide note, according to the first large study of US death investigations and inherent biases in determining the manner of death.
“The opioid epidemic is killing more people every year at a higher rate,” said lead author Ian Rockett, a professor of epidemiology at the West Virginia University School of Public Health in Morgantown. “Death investigation systems are highly stressed. It’s going to make it very difficult to do the kind of assessments we need to do about their intentionality.”
He believes the 32 percent rise in the national suicide rate from 2000 to 2015 is a “serious underestimate,” but it’s impossible to know how many drug…