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Study: Buprenorphine May Reduce Mental Pain Related to Suicide

An Israeli study conducted in 2015 and published in The American Journal of Psychiatry found that buprenorphine, a drug normally used to treat opioid addiction, could also help decrease suicidal ideation (Yovell et al., 2015). 


Buprenorphine is a “semi-synthetic opioid” used during opiate withdrawal to help relieve symptoms (Kim, 2017). It is able to stimulate some brain opioid receptors without causing the same level of euphoria experienced by taking opiates. 


Study participants were “. . . recruited from Israeli hospitals, had attempted suicide in the past, and 57 percent met criteria for borderline personality disorder” (Kim, 2017). Small doses of buprenorphine or placebos were administered to the participants to see if it affected “the brain’s naturally occurring endogenous opioids” to reduce suicidal thoughts (Kim, 2017). Researchers found that there was a significant decrease in those participants who received buprenorphine. 


This study was recently addressed in an article in Scientific American by Anne Skomorowsky from the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, in New York. Skomorowsky stated, “Perhaps the study’s most important contribution is its implication that treatments that help us withstand mental pain may prevent suicide” (2017). 












Kim, V. (2017). Can buprenorphine help reduce suicidal thoughts? Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/can-buprenorphine-help-reduce-suicidal-thoughts
Skomorowsky, A. (2017). How to prevent suicide with an opioid. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-prevent-suicide-with-an-opioid/
Yovell, Y., Bar, G., Mashiah, M., Baruch, Y., Briskman, I., Asherov, J., . . . Panksepp, J. (2015). Ultra-low-dose buprenorphine as a time-limited treatment for severe suicidal ideation: A randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 173(5), 491–8.