The strong link between pain killers and suicide in the elderly

A paper published in the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics has investigated the relationship between pain killers and suicidal behavior in the elderly.

This  study aims to examine the association between suicidal vulnerability and analgesic consumption in a population based study. Authors  hypothesized that people with a past history of  suicide attempts (i.e. carrying suicidal vulnerability) will be more prone to consuming analgesics than subjects without such a history.They selected subjects among a cohort recruited in communitydwelling people over 65 years of age between 1999 and 2001.

A standardized interview assessed demographic characteristics,general health, medical history, hospitalization, self-reported social isolation and current alcohol and .

Chronic illnesses included cardiac ischemic disease, diabetes, hypertension,asthma, thyroid pathology and cancer. Prescriptions for analgesics were classified according to the WHO analgesic ladder . We considered two grades of medication: grade I for nonopioid drugs (step 1 for low-to-moderate ) and grade II for opioid drugs (steps 2 and 3 for severe pain). The use of non-prescribed drugs was also recorded. The sample was divided into three groups: (1) suicide attempters (SA, n = 41) having a lifetime history of , (2) affective controls (AC, n = 410) having a history of major depression (DSM-IV criteria) or current high (CES-D score >16 ) without history of suicide attempt and (3) healthy controls (HC, n = 406) having no psychiatric history and current low depressive symptoms.

Only opioid consumption was significantly increased in subjects having a history of depression, with the highest risk of opioid consumption in former SA. It was not related due to differences in health status or care accessibility. As depression in the elderly is commonly associated with painful symptoms  , AC should have been prone to taking if their consumption only depended on their depressive state. Moreover, there were no between-group differences in antidepressant consumption, which modulates both depression and pain . As a whole, it may suggest the involvement of a modified pain perception in suicidal vulnerability, possibly linked to the opioid system. The strengths of this study are the inclusion of community-dwelling people and the assessment of exhaustive prescriptions during the follow-up.

More information: Olié E. et al. History of Suicidal Behaviour and Analgesic Use in Community-Dwelling Elderly Psychother Psychosom 2013;82:341-343 DOI: 10.1159/000350504

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Depression twice as likely in migraine sufferers

Oct 17, 2013

The prevalence of depression among those with migraine is approximately twice as high as for those without the disease (men: 8.4% vs. 3.4%; women 12.4% vs. 5.7%), according to a new study published by University of Toronto ...

Recommended for you

Brains transform remote threats into anxiety

4 hours ago

Modern life can feel defined by low-level anxiety swirling through society. Continual reports about terrorism and war. A struggle to stay on top of family finances and hold onto jobs. An onslaught of news ...

Mental disorders due to permanent stress

4 hours ago

Activated through permanent stress, immune cells will have a damaging effect on and cause changes to the brain. This may result in mental disorders. The effects of permanent stress on the immune system are studied by the ...

Could there be a bright side to depression?

5 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—A group of researchers studying the roots of depression has developed a test that leads them closer to the idea that depression may actually be an adaptation meant to help people cope with ...

Dominant people can be surprisingly social

6 hours ago

In contrast to the lay stereotype, dominant people prove to be avid social learners, just like dominant individuals in the animal kingdom. Neuroscientists from Radboud University show this with a complex ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.