Year: 2021 Source: Drug and Alcohol Dependence. (2019). 205, 107612. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107612. SIEC No: 20210922

Background: Prior studies in heroin use disorder reported low rates (10%) of suicidal intention with non-fatal opioid overdose but did not assess dimensional ratings of suicidal ideation. This study aims to quantify the frequency and intensity of ratings of desire to die and perceived overdose risk proximal to the most recent opioid overdose event among individuals admitted for opioid use disorder detoxification/stabilization.

Methods: Cross-sectional study (June 2017-July 2018) assessing patterns of opioid use and variables related to overdose history was conducted in a not-for-profit psychiatric hospital. Adults (>18 years) with opioid use disorder were eligible and 120 of 122 participants completed all measures. Forty-one percent were women and 85% self-identified as white. Participants’ perceptions of the likelihood of overdose and their suicidal motivations (defined as desire to die) prior to most recent opioid overdose was self-rated on a scale of 0 (no desire to die/no risk of death) to 10 (I definitely wanted to die/I definitely thought I would die).

Results: Most (92%) surviving opioid overdose used heroin/fentanyl; over half reported some desire to die prior to their most recent overdose, with 36% reporting strong (>7/10) desire to die and 21% reporting 10/10 “I definitely wanted to die.” Perceptions of overdose risk were also variable, with 30% reporting no (0/10) likelihood of overdose and 13% reporting a high (10/10) likelihood.

Conclusions: Suicidal motivation prior to opioid overdose is common and falls along a continuum of severity. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine if suicide prevention interventions may reduce opioid overdose in those at risk.