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Is the Bipolar Spectrum the Psychopathological Substrate of Suicidality in Heroin Addicts?

Maremmani I.a, b, c · Pani P.P.d · Canoniero S.e · Pacini M.b · Perugi G.a, b · Rihmer Z.f · Akiskal H.S.g
aSanta Chiara University Hospital, Department of Psychiatry, University of Pisa, and bInstitute of Behavioural Sciences G. De Lisio, Pisa, cAU-CNS, Pietrasanta, dSerT AUSL 8, Cagliari, and eSerT AUSL 5, La Spezia, Italy; fNational Institute for Psychiatry and Neurology, Budapest, Hungary; gInternational Mood Center, University of California and Veterans Administration Hospital, San Diego, Calif., USA Psychopathology 2007;40:269–277 (DOI:10.1159/000104742)


Background: To describe the prevalence and the risk factors of suicidal ideation in a cohort of Italian opioid addicts presenting for treatment. Method: Systematic cross-sectional clinical data on suicidal ideation, socio-demographic variables, psychiatric status, social adjustment, status and history of addiction in 616 patients were gathered. Results: Suicidal thoughts during the past week were reported by 29.1%. Suicidal thoughts were more frequent in patients with bipolar spectrum diagnoses (OR = 1.42) and in patients with depressive and aggressive symptoms (multiple R = 0.47). The odds of having suicidal thoughts were also higher for subjects receiving public welfare benefits (OR = 1.69), unemployed patients (OR = 1.37), those with early onset of heroin dependence (OR = 1.36), living alone (OR = 1.33), and experiencing problems in organizing social contacts and leisure time (OR = 1.28). Conclusion: Current suicidal ideation was a common feature of patients with opioid addiction. Depression and hostility as part of the bipolar spectrum – in the context of early-onset drug dependence, work and social/leisure problems – appear independently associated with suicidal ideation. Given the elevated rates of completed suicide in heroin addiction, these data have implications for preventing suicide in patients with this type of addiction. Prospective data are needed to further address this important clinical and public health agenda.


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