Predictive modeling: the role of opioid use in suicide risk

Grant Details

Funder: NIDA

Grant Number: R01DA047724

Grant Period: 8/15/2018 – 6/30/2022

Narrative: Suicide deaths and opioid-related overdose deaths have both been increasing in recent years. These two public health crises have substantial overlap: our preliminary work suggests that between 22% and 37% of opioid-related overdoses are suicides or suicide attempts. Healthcare settings are ideal places to intervene to prevent suicides, however clinicians need better tools to recognize the patients at greatest risk. We developed models that predict risk of suicide attempt or death with 83% to 86% accuracy. However, these models do not include important opioid-related variables. In a parallel body of work, we developed algorithms based on coded electronic health record (EHR) data to identify opioid-related overdoses and classify them as unintentional or intentional suicides. The proposed project integrates these two existing lines of research. Our suicide risk prediction dataset includes seven large healthcare systems and approximately 20 million visits by 3 million patients; it is currently being expanded to include additional outcomes and visits through 2016, and additional predictors, however inclusion of opioid-related variables was not part of the funded supplement. In the proposed study, we will determine whether including variables related to illicit and prescribed opioid use, opioid use disorder, discontinuation or significant dose reductions of prescription opioids, or prior non-fatal opioid-related overdoses improves predictions of suicide attempts or death within 90 days following an outpatient healthcare visit. We will also develop models that specifically predict opioid- related suicide attempts and deaths in the sample as a whole and among people prescribed opioid medications, and determine if the predictors of opioid-related suicide attempts or deaths are consistent for men and women. The goal of the proposed work is to maximize the performance of our models in order to create the best available tools for clinicians to help reduce future suicides. We have an established collaboration with the largest national EHR vendor and are working to develop an EHR-based, point-of-care clinical tool to predict suicide attempts and deaths based on our research findings. This work will therefore have a direct impact on clinical practice by providing clinicians with an efficient, evidence-based tool to evaluate suicide risk. The work will also provide critical data on understudied opioid-related predictors and moderators of suicide.

Lead Site: KPNW (PI Bobbi Jo Yarborough)

Participating Sites: HFHS, HPI, KPCO, KPHI, KPSC, KPWA

Current Status

Summary of Findings


MRHN III Supplemental Project: Effect of Initiating Buprenorphine on Suicidal Behavior

Grant Details

Title: Buprenorphine Effect on Suicidal Behavior

Funder: NIMH

Grant Number: U19MH121738-02S2  (supplement to main MHRN cooperative agreement)

Grant Period: 9/17/2020 – 8/31/2022

Narrative: This large observational study will evaluate the effects of initiating buprenorphine treatment on subsequent suicidal behavior among people with opioid use disorder, including those with and without co-occurring mental health conditions or other known risk factors for suicidal behavior. We will use comprehensive health records data from four large health systems serving a combined member/patient population of approximately 11 million. Analyses will examine the overall effect of buprenorphine treatment on subsequent suicide attempts or death, heterogeneity of effects in patient subgroups, and specificity of effects to buprenorphine vs other medications.

We will be using previously developed suicide risk prediction tools to compare the outcomes of individuals who do and do not use buprenorphine with similar baseline suicide risk.

  • Lead Site: KPWA
    • Overall PI: Greg Simon
  • Participating Sites/Subcontractors:
    • KPNC – Site PI: Cynthia Campbell
    • KPSC – Site PI: Rulin Hechter
    • Henry Ford – Site PI: Brian Ahmedani
  • Funder Contacts:
    • Science Officer: Susan Azrin
    • Program Official: Michael Freed
    • Grants Management Official: Julie Bergerud
  • Awarded Budget (Total Cost):
    • Year 1: $514,616
    • Year 2: $274,321


Funding Announcement: PA-18-591

Notice of Award

Personnel Contact List

Human Subjects: YES

  • IRB Review:
    • KPWA is single IRB reviewing for KPWA, KPNC, and KPSC – Approved waiver of consent for use of records data
    • Henry Ford determined to be exempt
    • KPWA IRBnet File: [1649129]

Clinical Trial: NO

Current status

Exploratory analyses (in preparation for extraction of data at each site) have examined availability and quality of data regarding opioid medication use, availability and quality of data regarding injury and poisoning events, and types of visits occurring prior to initial buprenorphine prescriptions.  These analyses are informing refinements to research design and data specifications.  Final data extraction will occur during in October 2022 with analyses complete in early 2023.

Summary of findings

Not yet available



Evaluating the Impact of Changes in Opioid Prescribing across Health Systems Implementing Zero Suicide

Project Name:
Evaluating the Impact of Changes in Opioid Prescribing across Health Systems Implementing Zero Suicide
Principal Investigator:
Brian Ahmedani PhD (Contact PI)
Principal Investigator Contact Information:         
Principal Investigator Institution:
Henry Ford Health System
Funding Period:
09/08/2018 – 09/07/2019
Suicide is a major public health concern – it is the 10th leading cause of death and number one cause of injury-related death in the United States (US). Suicide rates have risen over 25% in the last 15 years.  In parallel, the nation is struggling with an opioid epidemic.  Opioid prescribing, heroin use, and opioid-related overdose deaths have risen substantially.  Approximately 15% of all suicide deaths are due to drug overdose, and prescription opioids specifically, are commonly used among people who attempt suicide.  Health systems across the country have made decisions to tackle both of these public health crises – implementing policies to dramatically reduce opioid prescribing as well as clinical processes within the Zero Suicide model to improve suicide prevention for their patients. The parent award for this supplement is focused on evaluation of Zero Suicide implementation, including fidelity to each of these clinical processes and suicide outcomes, across 6 large, diverse Mental Health Research Network-affiliated Learning Healthcare Systems providing healthcare for over 9 million individuals each year. Given the overlap, significant reductions in opioid prescribing as part of newly implemented policies should lead to a reduction in the availability of opioids.  These reductions may result in a public-health level means reduction approach to reduce suicide.  Means reduction is among the interventions recommended within Zero Suicide.  The concurrent implementation of these new opioid prescribing policies in the context of implementation of Zero Suicide allows the opportunity to evaluate how changes in opioid prescribing impacts suicide outcomes in health care. This supplement project seeks to accomplish three specific aims: 1) Evaluate changes in opioid prescribing patterns during the period of NZSM implementation across health systems, 2) Investigate whether changes in opioid prescribing patterns reduce suicide attempt and mortality, and 3) Investigate whether changes in opioid prescribing patterns reduce opioid-related suicide attempt and mortality poisonings. Overall, we propose to use an Interrupted Time Series Design, consistent with the parent award, to measure changes in prescribing patterns and suicide outcomes.
Grant Number:
Participating Sites:
Henry Ford Health System
Kaiser Permanente Washington
Kaiser Permanente Colorado  
Kaiser Permanente Northern California
Kaiser Permanente Northwest
Kaiser Permanente Southern California
Gregory Simon, MD, MPH (co-PI)
BobbiJo Yarborough, PsyD
Stacy Sterling, DrPH
Karen Coleman, PhD
Arne Beck, PhD
Major Goals: Evaluate changes in opioid prescribing patterns during the period of NZSM implementation across health systems. Investigate whether changes in opioid prescribing patterns reduce suicide attempt and mortality. Investigate whether changes in opioid prescribing patterns reduce opioid-related suicide attempt and mortality poisonings.
Description of study sample:
Current Status:
06/26/2019 – We have finalized the study protocol and methods, including finalizing the data metrics.  We have drafted the specifications for the program to extract the electronic health record data from the participating sites.
Study Registration:
Lessons Learned:
What’s next?
We will finalize the program specifications, write/test/distribute the program, and collect the final data for analyses

Pathways from Chronic Prescription Opioid Use to New Onset Mood Disorder

Grant Details

Funder: NIH, NIDA

Grant Number: R01ActDA043811

Grant Period: 4/1/2019 – 3/31/2023

Narrative: Research on the association between psychopathology and prescription opioid analgesic use (OAU) has established that mental illness influences risk of chronic OAU (i.e. >90-days), high dose OAU and misuse. We explored the reverse direction of association and found longer OAU and higher opioid doses are associated with increased risk of new onset depression (NOD), independent of pain. Using Veterans Health Affairs (VA) patient data revealed >90-day OAU was associated with a 35% (in VA patients) to 105% (in private sector patients) increased risk of NOD compared to patients with 1-30 day OAU. Our additional studies revealed that OAU is associated with depression recurrence and treatment resistant depression. If these results are confirmed in the present proposal, results have potential to greatly inform interventions to reduce chronic OAU (e.g. treating depression), elucidate pathways to OAU misuse, and generate a body of evidence that informs safe opioid prescribing. To reveal pathways from OAU to NOD and related depression phenotypes (i.e. dysthymia, bipolar, anhedonia, vital exhaustion) we must measure the patients’ pre-existing risk factors and post-OAU events. We will obtain diagnoses and symptom level data and covariates that are not available in the medical record data used in our R21 and strengthen the temporal relationships between OAU and NOD. The central hypothesis driving this research is that pre-OAU risk factors such as a history of depression and post-OAU events such as onset of opioid misuse contribute to NOD.
If NOD is explained by OAU alone and not by pre-existing risk factors, then the opioid epidemic is generating new cases of depression in a large population of middle-aged adults, otherwise not at risk for NOD. Findings will disentangle consequences or correlates of chronic pain per se from those of chronic, high dose OAU. We test whether the OAU-NOD association is moderated by pre-existing depression, substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder and trauma exposure. We next propose that post-OAU opioid misuse, SUD, poor functioning, low social support and poor sleep quality promote NOD. Using 12 monthly brief assessments, we will determine if change in OAU, independent of change in pain influences, depression trajectories and determine if there is a reciprocal relationship among these variables over time. We will determine if OAU is associated with different depression phenotypes and last determine which subtypes of depression contribute to incident opioid use disorder.

Lead Site: St. Louis University (PI Jeffrey Scherrer)

Participating Sites: HFHS (Site PI Brian Ahmedani)

Current Status:

Summary of Findings: