Are non-fatal opioid overdoses misclassified suicide attempts? Comparing the associated correlates

Elizabeth Maloney, Louisa Degenhardt, Shane Darke, Elliot C. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


This paper aimed to determine whether non-fatal opioid overdose and suicide attempts are distinct behaviours by examining the histories of 1500 opioid-dependent individuals. This paper utilised data collected as part of a large retrospective case-control study. Unintentional non-fatal opioid overdoses were more common than suicide attempts (58% vs. 32%). Overall, the correlates associated with a history of attempted suicide only and non-fatal opioid overdose only were different. Drug-related risk behaviours (including high impulsivity, injection of opioids, sedative dependence) were associated with non-fatal opioid overdose; and a history of mental disorders (depression, anxiety disorder, and screening positive for borderline personality disorder (BPD+) were associated with suicide attempts. Additionally, those who reported a history of both behaviours had a more severe clinical profile including excessive drug use, psychological disorders and childhood trauma. The study concluded that non-fatal opioid overdose and attempted suicide are distinct clinically significant problems that require different approaches for prevention. Additionally, if both behaviours are reported a thorough assessment of underlying comorbid problems should be initiated by treatment services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-729
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Attempted suicide
  • Comorbidity
  • Drug overdose
  • Heroin dependence
  • Psychosocial factors


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