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Original Research

Co-occurring Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Opioid Use Disorder: Prevalence and Response During Treatment With Buprenorphine-Naloxone and Injection Naltrexone

Peter J. Na, MD, MPHa,b,c,*; Jennifer Scodes, MSd; Marc Fishman, MDe,f; John Rotrosen, MDa; and Edward V. Nunes Jr, MDd,g

Published: April 18, 2022


Objective: The concept of “deaths of despair” (suicide, overdose, and alcohol-related liver disease) highlights the importance of detecting and understanding the course of co-occurring depression in patients with opioid use disorder (OUD).

Methods: In a 24-week trial of 570 patients with DSM-5–defined OUD randomized to buprenorphine-naloxone (BUP-NX) or extended-release naltrexone (XR-NTX) from January 2014 to January 2017, the prevalence of depression (assessed with Hamilton Depression Rating Scale [HDRS]) was examined at baseline and after 4 weeks of treatment, and the association between depression and relapse to opioid use was explored using logistic regression.

Results: Among 473 patients who initiated medication, 14.2% (67/473) had moderate/severe depression (HDRS ≥ 17) and 34.9% (165/473) had mild depression (8 ≤ HDRS ≤ 16) at baseline. Patients with moderate/severe depression had more frequent histories of anxiety disorders and suicidal ideation. After 4 weeks of treatment, approximately two-thirds of participants with depression either responded (HDRS reduced ≥ 50% from baseline) or remitted (HDRS ≤ 7), with no significant differences between medication treatment groups. Those with moderate/severe depression were less likely to remit (52.8%; 28/53) compared to those with mild depression (76%; 98/129) at week 4 (OR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.21–0.89, P = .02). Further, those who remitted at week 4 had lower, but not significantly different, risk of relapse to opioids compared to those who did not remit (OR = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.28–1.08, P = .08).

Conclusions: Depression is common among patients with OUD and often remits after initiation of BUP-NX or XR-NTX, although when it does not remit it may be associated with worse opioid use outcome. Depression should be screened and followed during initiation of treatment and, when it does not remit, specific depression treatment should be considered.

Trial Registration: identifier: NCT02032433

Volume: 83

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