Chronic pain caused by cancer, arthritis and other conditions leads millions of people to suicide every year, warns a new report.
The deadly implications of pain have been widely discussed in recent years since the opiate epidemic showed that analgesics can lead anyone to an overdose, whether intentionally or not.
But a new report from the CDC warns of an overdose of a minority of deaths among people suffering from chronic pain.
In recent years, the number of patients with chronic pain who intentionally take their own lives has skyrocketed, and most cases have been committed with firearms.
The researchers warn that their findings highlight that the prevention of suicide should be a fundamental element of care for patients with chronic pain, especially when their treatment involves highly addictive and potentially lethal drugs.
Researchers from the CDC analyzed suicide data in 18 states between 2003 and 2014. They found that the rate of people with chronic pain took their lives (archive image)
Pain is a daily reality for at least 25 million Americans, according to national data. At least 10.5 million suffer severe pain daily.
New data compiled by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stress why there is more than usual discomfort.
Considering only 18 states between 2003 and 2014, the lead author Emiko Petrosky and her colleagues found that 123,181 people had committed suicide. An astonishing nine percent of them (10,789) had been battling chronic pain, particularly for arthritis, cancer and back pain.
It was a connection that became stronger and stronger over the years. In 2003, 7.4 percent of suicide cases were related to chronic pain. By 2014, that figure had risen to 10.2 percent.
Firearms are the most common cause of death for all suicides in the United States, but this study shows that it is more common for people with pain (53.6 percent) than those who do not (51 percent). Meanwhile, 16.2 percent of pain patients who committed suicide died of an overdose.
The study also found that patients with chronic pain were more likely than others to have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and were much more likely to have opioids in their system at the time of death than those who did not have pain (either drugs were a cause of death or not).
Writing in an editorial published in conjunction with the study, Dr. Mark Ilgen, of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, says the findings show a clear need to "awaken hope in people with chronic pain". # 39;
"The prevention of suicide implies that effective interventions against pain are more available," he says, but warns that this is clearly insufficient.
These interventions, explains Dr. Ilgen, "go beyond access to opiates and should also include, if appropriate, other medications, intervention programs, physical therapy and psychosocial approaches."
"These pain-related interventions should be supplemented with mental health treatment in people with pain and depressive and anxiety-related symptoms to foster hope and help address suicidal thoughts and plans."
- To obtain confidential assistance in the US UU. Call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.
- For confidential assistance in the United Kingdom, call the Samaritans at 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.
- For confidential assistance in Australia, call Lifeline's 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14