Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Opioid dose and risk of suicide.

Ilgen MA, Bohnert AS, Ganoczy D, Bair MJ, McCarthy JF, Blow FC. Opioid dose and risk of suicide. Pain. 2016 May 1; 157(5):1079-84.

Related HSR&D Project(s)

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


Chronic pain is associated with increased risk of suicide, and opioids are commonly used to treat moderate to severe pain. However, the association between opioid dose and suicide mortality has not been examined closely. This retrospective data analysis described the risk of suicide associated with differing prescribed opioid doses. Data were from Veterans Affairs health care system treatment records and the National Death Index. Records analyzed were those of Veterans Affairs patients with chronic pain receiving opioids in fiscal years 2004 to 2005 (N = 123,946). Primary predictors were maximum prescribed morphine-equivalent daily opioid dose and opioid fill type. The main outcome measured was suicide death, by any mechanism, and intentional overdose death during 2004 to 2009. Controlling for demographic and clinical characteristics, higher prescribed opioid doses were associated with elevated suicide risk. Compared with those receiving = 20 milligrams/day (mg/d), hazard ratios were 1.48 (95% confidence intervals [CI], 1.25-1.75) for 20 to < 50 mg/d, 1.69 (95% CI, 1.33-2.14) for 50 to < 100 mg/d, and 2.15 (95% CI, 1.64-2.81) for 100+ mg/d. The magnitude of association between opioid dose and suicide by intentional overdose was not substantially different from that observed for the overall measure of suicide mortality. Risk of suicide mortality was greater among individuals receiving higher doses of opioids, and treatment providers may want to view high opioid dose as a marker of elevated risk for suicide. Additional research is needed on opioid use, pain treatment, and suicide.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.