WVU in the News: Up to a third of opioid overdose deaths might be suicides, Johns Hopkins researcher concludes

Tens of thousands of people fatally overdose each year on opioids and other drugs. Sometimes medical examiners label them accidents, and sometimes they don’t know what to call them.

But where humans waver, a computer program using a kind of artificial intelligence finds that many are likely suicides — possibly a third of them, according to a study by a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine researcher who partnered with a Utah high school student.

The information could bring sharper focus to the scope of epidemics of both opioid abuse and suicides, as well as the need for resources.

“There are two epidemics, suicide and opioids,” said Dr. Ian Rockett, who has been researching the undercounting of suicides for a decade. “They tend to be treated separately, when there is considerable overlap.”

Rockett, who was not involved in the computer study, said it may have found a way to ascertain more accurate suicide numbers among the overdoses, making it important.

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