Suicidal ideation and suicidal self-directed violence following clinician-initiated prescription opioid discontinuation among long-term opioid users

Gen Hosp Psychiatry. 2017 Jul:47:29-35. doi: 10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2017.04.011. Epub 2017 Apr 27.


Objective: Little is known about patient outcomes following discontinuation of opioid therapy, which may include suicidal ideation (SI) and suicidal self-directed violence (SSV). The purpose of this study was to examine correlates of SI and non-fatal SSV in a sample of patients discontinued from long-term opioid therapy (LTOT).

Method: Five hundred-nine Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients whose clinicians discontinued them from LTOT were selected from a national cohort of VHA patients who discontinued opioids in 2012. The sample comprised patients with a substance use disorder and matched controls. Patient electronic health records were manually reviewed to identify discontinuation reasons and the presence of SI or SSV in the 12months following discontinuation.

Results: Forty-seven patients (9.2%) had SI only, while 12 patients (2.4%) had SSV. In covariate-adjusted logistic regression models, mental health diagnoses associated with having SI/SSV included post-traumatic stress disorder (aOR=2.56, 95% CI=1.23-5.32) and psychotic disorders (aOR=3.19, 95% CI=1.14-8.89). Other medical comorbidities, substance use disorder and pain diagnoses, opioid dose, and benzodiazepine prescriptions were unrelated to SI/SSV.

Conclusions: Among patients with a substance use disorder and matched controls, there are high rates of SI/SSV following opioid discontinuation, suggesting that these "high risk" patients may require close monitoring and risk prevention.

Keywords: Chronic opioid therapy; Opioid; Opioid discontinuation; Suicidal ideation; Suicidal self-directed violence; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / statistics & numerical data*


  • Analgesics, Opioid