Suicidal ideas and suicide attempts are linked to the opioid use and pain sensitivity in the elderly, a new study published in the journal  Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics suggests.

The recent dramatic increase in opioid prescribing and its inappropriate use has led to an epidemic of opioid addictions, often generalizing to other substances use disorders and overdose deaths. In the US, the suicide death rate with opioid overdose increased from 2.2% in 1999 to 4.4% in 2010.

The study authors investigated differences in terms of analgesic and physical pain between: 

  1. Subjects with suicidal ideation during follow-up or with a lifetime history of suicide attempt,
  2. Affective controls, ie, subjects with a lifetime history of major depression Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) or high depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression, CES-D> 16) during the study but without suicidal ideations or attempts,
  3. Healthy controls, ie, having neither suicidal ideations/attempts, nor major depression, and having low depressive symptoms and no psychotropic medication used during the study.

The proportion of subjects taking analgesics was 37.6% in subjects with suicidal ideations or attempts, 30.2% in affective controls, and 21.6% in healthy controls. A higher rate of analgesic in subjects with suicidal ideation or attempt versus healthy controls was reported.

For nonopioid drugs, proportions were 21.8% in subjects with suicidal ideation or attempt, 18.5% in affective controls, and 15.5% in healthy controls; for opioid drugs, they were 15.7% in subjects with suicidal ideation or attempt, 11.7% in affective controls, and 6.1% in healthy controls.

Also comparing nonopioid and opioid drug, to a difference between subjects with suicidal ideation or attempt and healthy controls was found. When compared opioid users to analgesic nonusers, subjects with suicidal ideation or attempt were more prone to use opioids than healthy controls.

These findings point out to the Increased consumption of opioids in subjects Suicidal ideation or attempt With Compared to healthy controls Which Might Suggest an Increased sensitivity to psychological and / or physical pain in suicide.