CSI:OPIOIDs (Clinical Context of Suicide Following Opioid Transitions) is a scientific research study to closely examine suicides that happen after prescription opioid dose reductions in patients with long-term pain. Beginning as a pilot study supported by UAB Heersink School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine, today it’s supported by a Veterans Administration grant under the title “CSI:OPIOIDs-V“. The study’s purpose is to increase knowledge of the demographic, societal, and clinical factors that have led and may lead patients with pain to die by suicide after opioid reduction or stoppage.

Our work was inspired by the attention and tracking of Ms. Anne Fuqua, who noticed that many suicides of pain patients were reported by families online, but not followed up by health authorities or policymakers.

Results from the CSI:OPIOIDs study will help families, clinicians, and policymakers understand when and why patients with pain die by suicide after opioid reduction or stoppage. The results will help identify ways to improve health care and assure positive outcomes for patients with pain.

Why It Matters

Since 2012, many doctors have been reducing or stopping opioid medications in their patients with pain. While some patients have tolerated this change in medication, others have been harmed gravely, with suicidal events found in several research papers and news reports. Right now, no one fully understand what personal factors or life circumstances differentiate patients who tolerate change in their opioid medications well from those who are harmed by that change. Until we look closely at the individual tragedies, we cannot expect the kind of systematic changes in healthcare that will reduce negative outcomes for similar patients in the future.

What Will This Study Do

The CSI:OPIOIDs team will:

  • Compile a registry of individuals who have died by suicide following a reduction or stoppage in their opioid medication
  • Perform in-depth, one on one interviews with survivors of individuals who have died by suicide after opioid transition to understand what led their loved-one to die by suicide
  • Identify factors common to these individuals prior to their death and suggest ways to reduce likelihood that future patients will die by suicide under similar circumstances

There are many reasons that no other team has attempted to study these deaths closely. But one is that any form of research that reaches out to members of the public who have suffered such a loss is hard to do. A research team must surmount logistical challenges and establish trust across communities of patients, families, experts and policy makers.

Research Team

The CSI:OPIOIDs research team is led by Dr. Stefan Kertesz, Professor of Medicine at UAB Heersink School of Medicine and physician at the Birmingham VA Medical Center. See Our Team for more information.


The primary funder for this study is the Veterans Health Administration Health Services Research & Development Branch.

Pilot funding was provided by the Heersink UAB School of Medicine, Department of Medicine.

We also count the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors as a key organizational partner.