Reuters reports that recently discharged drug users have a heightened risk of suicide and overdose–a rate ten times higher than for patients discharged over a year ago. New research, published in the journal Addiction and examining the records of 70,000 citizens of Scotland, found that people discharged a month ago had a rate of 21 overdose deaths and 3.9 suicides per 1,000 people per year. Patients discharged over a year ago had a rate of 4.2 overdose deaths and less than one suicide per 1,000 people a year or more later.
This increased risk for death may be due to substance abuse patients losing drug tolerance during their hospital stay and then binging on drugs once they’re released. Dr. Patrick G. O’Connor, an addiction expert at the Yale School of Medicine, told Reuters, “For drug users who leave the hospital, we need to be able to provide instantaneous and tight linkages for these patients to at least three services: primary care services, social services and drug treatment services.” He added that these services are even more vital in the United States, where many lack access to basic health insurance.