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Research Letter
December 17, 2019

Trends in Intentional and Unintentional Opioid Overdose Deaths in the United States, 2000-2017

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, New York
  • 2Division of Research and Methodology, National Center for Health Statistics, Hyattsville, Maryland
  • 3National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 4National Institute on Drug Abuse, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA. 2019;322(23):2340-2342. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.16566

Increasing rates of opioid overdose and suicide deaths have fueled interest in defining the extent to which these 2 urgent public health problems are syndemic. Although it has been assumed that approximately one-quarter of opioid overdose deaths are intentional,1 prior research has not evaluated the national distribution of opioid-related deaths by manner. Reevaluation of officially classified poisoning deaths of undetermined intent suggests that 21% may be misclassified suicides.2 We evaluated trends in US drug overdose deaths involving opioids certified as unintentional, suicide, or undetermined intent.