Opioid Makers Will Soon Face New Justice Department Task Force

Opioid Makers Will Soon Face New Justice Department Task Force

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an announcement at a news conference Tuesday that the Justice Department will be creating a new task force to pursue the makers and distributors of prescription opioids. It seems that beyond pursuing new restrictions being put on prescriptions, there will be a more intentional focus on Big Pharma and those who many believe have made the opioid crisis possible.

Jeff Sessions said the task force will “examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance.”

Meanwhile, Sessions also included the Justice Department is going to be backing a lawsuit in Ohio against major prescription opioid makers.

Ohio VS Opioid Makers Lawsuit

In truth, this lawsuit isn’t just about the state of Ohio. It consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties and Native American tribes nationwide. Buckeye Nation has definitely been hit hard by the opioid crisis, but for now, the stage is set here for a massive effort against questionable practices from opioid makers.

The lawsuit that solicits the Justice Departments attention is pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland. It goes after various companies for using misleading marketing to promote prescription opioids, including:

  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Dispensers

The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of:

  • Downplaying the risk of addiction to these drugs
  • Failing to report suspicious orders by consumers, which would indicate the drugs were being abused

Furthermore, there are some big names in Big Pharma being listed as defendants, including:

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals

The suit is also going after large distributors, such as:

  • McKesson
  • Cardinal Health

Not to mention pharmacy chains like:

  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid

So how will the Justice Department be engaging in the current lawsuit? How will this new development impact the outcome of the case?

For more important information on the dangers of prescription drugs, download our

FREE E-BOOK “Big Secrets of Big Pharma: Why They Secretly Hope You Get Hooked”


Statement of Interest Against Opioid Makers

During the press briefing, Sessions explained that the Justice Department plans to file what is called a “statement of interest” in the Ohio lawsuit. This is a technique that past administrations typically would only resort to in cases that directly affect the federal government’s interests, such as diplomacy and national security.

However, with the intensity of the opioid crisis being what it is, it is perfectly understandable to make it such a high priority for the current administration to get involved with. So far, recovery advocates have been largely unimpressed with the half-measures that have been presented thus far with the Trump administration to address the issue.

By invoking the statement of interest, the attorney general is legally able to argue on behalf of the government’s interest in any court in the country. However, it does not make the government a plaintiff. All things considered, Sessions said his department will use criminal and civil penalties. He states,

 “We will use whatever tools we have to hold people accountable for breaking our laws.”

Which is quite a statement, considering it isn’t at all common for criminal charges to be brought against Big Pharma.

The Devil Is in the Data

What brought the Justice Department into this began with a discussion on access to certain data. This past Monday, lawyers for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to the Ohio courtroom to discuss how much data they would share about the national distribution of painkillers.

The DEA said it would only provide two years of information in the case, asserting that the agency did not want to compromise ongoing criminal investigations. However, Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s request is to provide the sides with nine years of data. He said the agency has until next Monday to decide whether it will comply. This data can assist in determining:

  • The number of pills distributed
  • The locations
  • The distributors

This information could be crucial in allocating liability.

Richard Fields, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general and sovereign Native American nations in opioid litigation, predicts that the statement of interest from the Justice Department “will help unlock this data so that we can hold manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for flooding communities with pills.”

Therefore, it appears Sessions is going to be taking some big steps toward calling out Big Pharma for their involvement in the opioid crisis. Sessions says the government will be taking a hard look at doctors who overprescribe prescription painkillers. Even legal drugs like these too often lead to addiction and abuse of illegal drugs like heroin.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he believes this is a game changer. With all the suffering communities in Ohio have seen over the past several years, we can only hope.

Holding Big Pharma accountable is a huge step. Nevertheless, we should also highlight the need for state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a dramatic difference in helping heal communities. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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CDC Claims Kratom Probably Responsible for Salmonella Outbreak

CDC Claims Kratom Probably Responsible for Salmonella Outbreak

This past week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement warning people to stay away from Kratom while health officials investigate the possible connection between the plant and a nationwide outbreak of salmonella.

Multi-State Salmonella Outbreak

So far 11 people have been hospitalized as a result of this recent salmonella outbreak, and the CDC believes that kratom may actually be responsible for the recent chain of illnesses.

Since October, 28 cases of salmonella were recorded in 20 states, including:

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. New York
  4. Ohio
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Michigan
  7. Alabama
  8. Arizona
  9. Colorado
  10. Louisiana
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Oregon
  13. North Dakota
  14. North Carolina
  15. South Carolina
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Utah
  19. Tennessee
  20. Pennsylvania

So far there have been no deaths, but nearly a dozen people have ended up needing to be hospitalized.

Most people infected with salmonella develop symptoms with 12 to 72 hours of exposure to the bacteria. Some symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramps

According to the advisory released by the CDC, 11 people affected by the salmonella outbreak were interviewed. Out of those 11 people, 8 of them admit to consuming kratom. That is a 73% connection so far. These individuals had taken the plant via:

  • Pills
  • Powder
  • Tea

Therefore, at this time kratom is the primary suspect in the CDC’s investigation. The advisory states:

“Epidemiologic evidence indicates that kratom is a likely source of this multistate outbreak. At this time, CDC recommends that people not consume kratom in any form because it could be contaminated with salmonella.”

But it wasn’t just the CDC. The very next day the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement announcing the recall of “kratom-containing dietary supplements” manufactured and distributed by Divinity Products Distribution of Grain Valley, Missouri. This manufacturer is not yet determined to be the cause of the outbreak, but the company voluntarily recalled its kratom products and promised to stop selling them.

CDC, FDA, and DEA vs Kratom

At this time the FDA is encouraging other kratom companies to follow the Missouri company’s lead. They urge other manufacturers to- “take swift action to remove these products from circulation to protect the public.” The FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb states,

“To protect the public health, we’ll continue to affirm the risks associated with kratom, warn consumers against its use and take aggressive enforcement action against kratom-containing products.”

Proponents of kratom do argue that the FDA has been working especially hard in the last few years to prove that kratom is a threat to public health. In early February the FDA claimed it found evidence that certain compounds in kratom interact with the body’s opioid receptors. This led the agency to conclude that “compounds in kratom make it so it isn’t just a plant—it’s an opioid.” In America, the use of this plant is actually already banned in 6 states. The DEA also considers it a drug of concern. Even though back in October of 2016 the DEA announced they would not be banning kratom and giving it a schedule 1 label.

However, the American Kratom Association and other kratom advocates are willing to keep pushing back against the FDA. Many kratom users claim it is useful for helping addicts self-medicate to lessen the withdrawals when getting off heroin and other opioids. Yet, there is not enough research out there yet to fully endorse this claim, and a lot more would have to be done to legitimize it.

Either way, because kratom products are very loosely regulated by the FDA, it isn’t hard to understand why they are asking people to stop using the plant until they have been able to identify the source of the bacteria.

So far, no specific brands or suppliers have been singled out, but health officials are still urging people to be safe and avoid kratom products.

Many may still debate the benefits and the risks with kratom. Either way, both sides agree that more research is needed. Whether or not the drug should be banned is still a question that has yet to be answered. The one thing we do know is that kratom is a mind-altering substance, so using it might be detrimental to some people trying to recover from addiction. Right now, it doesn’t seem safe for anyone, anyway. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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First American Safe Injection Sites May Cause State VS Federal Conflict  

First American Safe Injection Sites May Cause State VS Federal Conflict  

Right now a few American cities are aiming to establish active safe injection sites, with most recent reports indicating the first will probably be San Francisco. Currently, the Golden Gate City is on track to open two of these facilities in July. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is not far behind as city officials are pushing forward with a proposition from January. Other areas fighting for the controversial programs include Seattle and Baltimore.

Now it seems this fight for safe injection sites may soon pit state governments against the federal government, as the DEA under the Trump administration vows to take action against these facilities.

Safe Injection Sites for San Francisco

The city of San Francisco has an estimated 22,000 intravenous drug users. As of now, it has become the norm to see people injecting drugs in broad daylight on a park bench, public transit, or any sidewalk. As a consequence, dirty needles get left out in the open. So the decision by San Francisco officials to establish safe injection sites isn’t all that alarming.

Safe injection sites mean fewer needles on the streets. Reports from public health officials expect that 85% of the intravenous drug users in the city would use these sites, and the city could potentially save $3.5 million a year in medical costs. According to the director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Health, Barbara Garcia, officials are already working out the details. Garcia is currently working with six to eight nonprofits that already provide needle exchange programs and other addiction services. Two of them will soon be operating as safe injection sites.

Garcia says that because the cities fiscal year will begin on July 1, the process of opening these safe injection sites should begin close to that date. She also adds that once officials are able to examine how the first two sites are working, they can decide if and when to open the third and fourth sites.

Because intravenous drug use is still against state and federal law, the city will be avoiding liability by funding these sites through private investments. Garcia did not include where the money would be coming from. Garcia also does not appear to be too concerned about whether opening safe injection sites will draw the ire of the Trump administration, saying,

“That’s to be seen. I’m more worried about people dying in our streets.”

Given the rates of intravenous drug use and overdose death in the area, that sounds like a reasonable reason to worry. Part of operating safe injection sites also means providing a supervising medical staff equipped with overdose antidotes, and offering addiction treatment resources to those willing to seek help.

Hope for Harm Reduction

State Senator Scott Wiener is also working to get state law changed to ensure that anybody associated with safe injection sites won’t face arrest or punishment, including:

  • Property owners
  • Employees
  • Drug users themselves

The bill Wiener is pushing was last year passed in the Assembly, but remains two votes short of confirmation in the Senate.

Part of the reason for so many officials pushing to protect and advance this project seems to come from a fair amount of public support. For the first time, the Chamber of Commerce’s Dignity Health CityBeat Poll included a question about safe injection sites this year. It asked respondents whether they support or oppose-

“drop-in facilities called safe injection sites where intravenous drug users could use their drugs, off the street, and in a place where medical and social services are available.”

Out of all those who answered the survey:

  • 67% of respondents said they support the idea
  • 45% of those were ‘strongly’ supportive
  • 22% of those were ‘somewhat’ supportive
  • Only 27% percent opposed it
  • 6% didn’t know

The poll found support for the sites regardless of:

  • Age
  • Homeownership

The demographics also includes support from:

  • Progressives
  • Liberals
  • Moderates
  • Even 42% of self-described Conservatives

Mayor Mark Farrell is another supporter who said,

“I understand the misgivings around it and some of the rhetoric from people who don’t support it, but we absolutely need to give it a try.”

While issues like homelessness, crime and gang violence were all concerns consistent with opening of injection sites, city officials seem to believe the old way isn’t working. The hope is that by providing social services and treatment options, these safe injection sites will not only save lives but help more people get off drugs that otherwise might not have access to these resources.

Trump Says Sites Will Face Legal Action

It still seems these efforts will be met with resistence from the federal government. Last week the Trump administration made it clear they reject any facilities where heroin users can inject drugs under supervision. The president and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions seem to be committed to their ‘law and order’ approach to the drug problem, despite any lessons learned by the failed War on Drugs.

One might note that in general, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency views safe-injection sites as facilitation of criminal behavior. Therefore, it’s an absolute possibility the DEA will take some kind of enforcement action against any safe injection sites that pop up in the states. Katherine Pfaff, a DEA spokesperson, argued that these programs remain federally prohibited. She states,

“Supervised injection facilities, or so-called safe injection sites, violate federal law. Any facilitation of illicit drug use is considered in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and, therefore, subject to legal action.”

However, it appears some of the states that have approved safe injection sites are already preparing to do legal battle with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his Justice Department to convince the courts that this public health emergency is far too critical to pass up any opportunity at harm reduction.

So, what is going to become of this new controversy? More people, including law enforcement officials and conservatives, could be warming up to the idea of cleaning up the streets with safe injection sites in some states. If the DEA make moves to shut them down, what will happen next? Are safe injection sites an acceptable form of harm reduction? If not, what else could help address the opioid crisis?

Let us know in the comments what you think about these programs.

Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing an effective, holistic treatment program to help those suffering who need help. Providing safe and comprehensive care should always be a focus in the effort to overcome the drug problem, and preservation of life should always be a priority. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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First Delivery of Medical Cannabis in Texas Made to Child With Epilepsy

First Delivery of Medical Cannabis in Texas Made to Child With Epilepsy

Last Thursday, over two years after Republican Governor Gregg Abbott signed the law to legalize the sale of specific cannabis oil in Texas for intractable epilepsy, the first legal delivery in the state was made.

Many medical cannabis advocates are calling this a historic moment for the Lone Star State, as it could be the catalyst to usher in a new era of drug policy as it relates to medicinal alternatives.

The First Delivery

The first recipient of medical cannabis oil in Texas was a school-aged child. A spokesperson for the company told reporters that it could not disclose which city the patient lives in, but did share how the delivery was made.

Current regulations dictate that only a social worker or nurse can deliver the medical cannabis product to a patient or the patient’s caregiver. In the case of Texas’s first delivery, a nurse transported the oil to the patient’s home. The nurse also showed the patient how to use it.

The first delivery was made by Knox Medical, a dispensary in Schulenburg. José Hidalgo, the founder, and CEO of Knox Medical stated,

“For Texans suffering from intractable epilepsy, the wait for medical cannabis is finally over. This is a historic day for Texas and we will work tirelessly to uphold the trust and responsibility the state has placed in Knox Medical.”

Notably, less than 1% of the population of Texas suffer from intractable epilepsy. But still, that comes out to roughly 160,000 people.

Texas Medical Cannabis Law

At this point, there are only three licensed medical cannabis dispensaries in the state of Texas. These facilities were allowed to be opened following the 2015 Texas Compassion Use Act. But the programs are run by the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, Texas has not been as open with their medical cannabis movement as other parts of the country. As of now, state law scarcely allows for the sale of medical cannabis oils. The only oils to be sold are those that meet requirements:

  • Low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC.
  • High levels of cannabidiol, a non-euphoric component known as CBD that is used to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions.

And patients themselves have to meet very specific criteria. A person only qualifies if:

  • They are a permanent resident of Texas
  • Have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy
  • Must have tried two FDA-approved drugs and found them ineffective
  • Qualified physician has determined they would benefit from medical cannabis
  • Have a second qualified physician agree with the assessment that they would benefit

Qualified doctors must be listed on the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas.

Needless to say, Texans won’t be rushing out to dispensaries anytime soon to stock up on medicinal marijuana. State officials seem to have a very precise mission in mind when it comes to allowing for this treatment to go forward. Still, some medical cannabis supporters are happy with the direction. So how do products like medical cannabis and CBD oil impact those trying to recovery from addiction?

Legalization and Recovery

In the world of recovery from drugs or alcohol, the idea that marijuana legalization is becoming more widely accepted may seem tempting to some. Others seem to believe legalizing marijuana invites more hard drug use. What does it really mean for the recovery community or people struggling with addiction?

Legalizing a drug and having it readily available may be tempting, but it’s not as if it isn’t already done everywhere with alcohol. Almost any store you walk into is stocked with booze and plastered with adds to try and sell cigarettes. People in recovery from addiction are already exposed every day to some of the most dangerous drugs in the world because they are legal.

When we talk about legalization of marijuana, we want to remind people that for many struggling with substance use disorder the issue is not the specific chemicals you are using. Addiction is far more complex, influencing the mind while terrorizing the body. A drug is not suddenly any safer or better for you because it is becoming socially acceptable or legal.

It is important to find a middle ground. We can support those who benefit from new modalities while offering effective treatment opportunities to those who struggle. However, it is also important to offer experience and education for those who truly struggle with chemical dependency and everything else that comes with substance use disorder. It may seem easier to justify using marijuana for some people. But people should also know that marijuana abuse is a real risk. Substituting one drug for another is probably not the best option for some habitual drug users.

Medicinal and recreational marijuana reforms may be changing the way that the law dictates drug use for some, but for the addict or alcoholic, the risk can be far greater than they expect. Part of comprehensive and effective recovery is understanding how drugs affect people differently and learning how to make the best decisions for your health and your future. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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President Trump Plans Huge Cuts to Office of National Drug Control Policy

President Trump Plans Huge Cuts to Office of National Drug Control Policy

For the last few years federal politicians, local officials, and addiction advocates have spoken a great deal about the critical condition of the opioid crisis in America. Just a few months ago President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency, and his administration had created a special White House Opioid Commission to do extensive research and community outreach to try and better understand the problem and offer possible solutions.

Now recent reports state that President Donald Trump is actually planning to cut the budget of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) just happens to be the top office responsible for coordinating the federal response to the opioid crisis. This plan is being noted as his administration’s second attempt to gut the ONDCP, so how would this change the current system?

What is the Plan?

So what does this mean? If President Trump were to go forward with this proposal, it would shift the office’s two main grant programs. These are:

  • The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas grant
  • The Drug Free Communities Act

According to POLITICO, multiple sources in the administration and others working with the government on the opioid crisis said those resources would then be given respectively to:

  • The Justice Department
  • Health and Human Services Department

According to a document from the Office of Management and Budget, this proposal would cut 95% of the ONDCP’s budget. Officials in President Trumps administration say that the approximately $340 million in grants will be administered by larger agencies. But the ONDCP will still serve as the White House’s drug policy shop. But the ONDCP will still be the main resource for President Trump for drug policy.

According to the proposal, President Trump and his administration believe these programs are just duplicates of other initiatives. This cut would also result in the ONDCP losing up to 33 employees. Skeptics say taking these resources leaves the policy office with little power or purpose.

Some Support President Trump Plan

Not everyone believes this is a bad idea. Some advocacy organizations are cautiously optimistic that changes to the ONDCP could actually end up being a good thing. One of them is the Drug Policy Alliance. They believe the opioid epidemic has continued to get worse under the ONDCP, and that maybe a shift in perspective is necessary to make a difference.

Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance states,

 “The reality is that ONDCP is an agency in dire need of reform,”

Smith believes that the particular grant programs mentioned previously “are a phenomenal waste of money that contribute to the incarceration and stigmatization of drug users.”

They are also afraid President Trump would use a more powerful Drug Czar to aggressively treat drug abuse as a criminal justice issue rather than as a public health problem. If so, it might be a good idea to take the power of these grants out of the executive branch’s control.

Some believe the ONDCP won’t be particularly helpful for the future of drug policy due to some of the organizations part positions, such as denying medical use of marijuana or encouraging the expansion of workplace drug testing. There have been stories questioning the 24-year-old deputy chief of staff President Trump appointed to head the ONDCP. Some see having an individual with no drug policy experience running this important agency as an indication of inconsistnecy.

Supporters of moving the grants and cutting the ONDCP say it would decrease overlap since the DOJ already works on drug trafficking and HHS also has substance use prevention. This may not be the worst assumption either, considering that President Trump and his administration have touted a law-and-order approach that has many concerned about further stigmatizing and punishing those in need of help.

An OMB spokesperson stated,

“DOJ and HHS are both major grant management organizations that can look holistically at allocations across law enforcement and drug prevention and treatment resources.”

So some are hopeful it could just put the grants under a different roof. But critics say these programs are working, and it is hazardous to try and dramatically restructure them at such a desperate time.

Other Republicans Rebuke the Plan

Health policy experts, lawmakers, and even fellow Republicans are unhappy with this latest proposal. Some even say this is just one example of a series of actions showing that President Trump’s administration isn’t serious about addressing the opioid epidemic.

Last year the White House Office of Management and Budget proposed completely cutting these grants. However, that proposal was met with intense resistance from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Now, health experts and officials from both sides are speaking out against this plan. Regina LaBelle, who served as ONDCP Chief of Staff during the Obama administration, states:

“I’m baffled at the idea of cutting the office or reducing it significantly and taking away its programs in the middle of an epidemic,”

Many are already expecting lawmakers to push back again against this plan from President Trump.

Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito from West Virginia, a state ravaged by opioids, told POLITICO she will “resist that move”. Capito also says she believes the grants should be kept at ONDCP. This would keep them within the executive branch and under the president’s purview.

Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio, another state that has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, said he also plans to fight back against the proposed cuts. Portman says the anti-drug programs the administration wants to cut have done an immense amount of good in Ohio.

Going Against Opioid Commission

President Trump established the White House Opioid Commission to make recommendations on addressing the opioid crisis. Now even advisors on this panel are saying this new move goes against the opioid commission’s recommendations.

Former Representative Patrick Kennedy, a member of the opioid advisory commission, said the panel advised President Trump to fortify the ONDCP, not defund it. The opioid commission had also endorsed both of these grants as crucial to overall response efforts. Kennedy went on to say,

“It guts the two main purposes of ONDCP… It really undermines the mission.”

So there are those that think changing the ONDCP could be a necessary sacrifice to make progress. However, others are concerned that it is not the right move, and definitely not the right time.

We should note that the proposal from President Trump is subject to change. There is still more time to learn about how moving money from the Office of National Drug Control Policy could impact the governments work against the opioid crisis. Could this change refine the process of accessing these grants? Or could it cripple an important agency for fighting addiction during of one of the country’s worst drug outbreaks? Hopefully, these changes can be managed in a way that creates new opportunities instead of removing them.

Providing support and life-saving resources is vital to overcoming addiction. Every day people are struggling with drug or alcohol use disorders, and some of them never find the help they need. Safe and effective addiction treatment is one of the best tools we have. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

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Suicide VS Overdose: Study Claims Opioid Deaths Are Misclassified

Suicide VS Overdose: Study Claims Opioid Deaths Are Misclassified

Over the last 15 years, the suicide rate has climbed by an estimated 32%. While the overdose deaths in relation to the opioid crisis have become a constant issue around the country, some researchers suggest that the real suicide rates are even higher, but some of them are being misclassified as overdoses.

So, are more people dying due to drug abuse, or are more people taking their own lives using powerful street drugs and prescription narcotics?

Studying Suicide and Drugs

The idea that many of the deaths recorded as opioid overdoses may have been suicides, according to the researchers, is due to a significant gap between suicide rates and intoxication mortality rates.

A study from the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles, was published in the journal PLOS One. This study states that both suicide and drug intoxication death rates in the United States have risen over a period of 15 years. Researchers compiled data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to show:

  • 2000- The suicide rate was 10.40 per 100,000 people
  • 2015- Suicide rate rose to 13.75 deaths per 100,000 people
  • 2000- Drug intoxication mortality rate for those over the age of 15 was 7.81 deaths per 100,000
  • 2015- Drug intoxication death rate for those over the age of 15 rose to 20.07 per 100,000 in 2015

This means that the drug intoxication death rate rose by 257% in those 15 years, while suicide rates only rose by 32%. While 32% is still a devastating number when it comes to such a tragic circumstance, there is still a huge difference between 32% and 257%. These researchers believe this major difference in the reports of mortality rates suggests a lack of suicide reporting.

Difficulties in Death Investigation

One of the big problems, according to the study’s author Mark Kaplan, is resources. Kaplan is a professor of social welfare at UCLA, and he stated to local news sources,

“Unfortunately, part of the problem is due to serious under-resourcing of state and local death investigation systems throughout most of the U.S.

“Many of these deaths were probably suicides, yet reported as accidental self-poisoning rather than intentional self-harm, particularly among the middle-aged.”

The study by Kaplan and his colleagues further explains that when it comes to suicide by overdose, things like an individual’s psychiatric history or the presence of a suicide note are crucial to helping professionals identify a death as a suicide.

“A suicide note, prior suicide attempt or affective disorder was documented in less than one-third of suicides and one-quarter of undetermined deaths,”

“Our incorporation of undetermined deaths, as well as registered suicides, not only provided a window on the nature of suicide misclassification within the undetermined death category but within the accident category—as a much larger reservoir for obscuring drug intoxication suicides.”

So by acknowledging that there is not always an obvious indication that a death is a suicide, even in cases that are classified in suicide, the researchers believe that many deaths that involved drugs have most likely been categorized as overdoses instead of making a deeper inquiry into the circumstances surrounding an individual’s death.

Opioids Causing Ambiguity

With the opioid crisis in America, it has become even more difficult to measure the suicide rates. And that isn’t just this research teams opinion either.

In 2015, the CDC hosted a meeting to address the challenges presented for medical examiners and coroners across the country. The primary focus was concerning cases of fatal intoxication due to opioids and other drugs. The summary of this meeting concluded that drug intoxication deaths may be among the most difficult to determine regarding the manner of death. The summary notes that reasons for such difficulty in having a more accurate manner of death include:

  • Potentially equivocal evidence
  • Intent to die
  • Overlapping demographic groups affected
  • Overlapping premorbid risk factors (e.g., substance abuse, mental health problems).

Opioid addiction, much like any other form of substance use disorder, is often closely connected to other issues, including anxiety, trauma and mental health disorders. Some individuals living with mental health conditions who abuse opioids may be self-medicating and accidentally overdose. But others may be suffering so severely, with conditions like depressive disorders or bipolar disorder, that they ultimately take their own lives intentionally with the powerful drugs. With opioid abuse being so widespread and devastating, the line between the two has begun to blur.

Both studies mentioned clearly indicate in order to truly comprehend an accurate number of suicides by overdose, more research is needed. Both also admit that the number may never be exact.

Even though we will probably never have a definitive answer, the question is still important to ask. By knowing whether opioid deaths are caused by accidents or intentional we can develop better strategies to provide education and prevention.

This is also why mental health should always be a priority when it comes to addiction treatment.

Substance use disorder and suicide are both connected to mental health and personal wellness. Too often they both lead to avoidable tragedies. Therefore, mental health and wellness should be a priority for addiction treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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