The present study investigated whether or not the effect of treatment setting (inpatient or outpatient) on 6-mo follow-up substance use varied for suicidal and nonsuicidal patients. In particular, the study tested the hypothesis that treatment setting would have no differing effect for nonsuicidal participants, but for suicidal participants, inpatient setting would be more closely associated with positive outcomes than the outpatient setting.
A national sample of patients presenting for treatment of substance use disorders in the Veterans Administration healthcare system was selected to participate in the study. A total of 1289 participants provided complete data on psychiatric and substance-related problems at baseline and 6-mo follow-up.
At baseline, 4% (n = 53) of the sample reported having made a suicide attempt within the past 30 days. Those who reported a suicide attempt were no more likely to have been treated in an inpatient setting than in an outpatient setting. A significant interaction between baseline suicide attempt and treatment setting was found, such that nonsuicidal patients reported similar patterns of substance use when treated in inpatient or outpatient settings, but suicidal patients were significantly more likely to have better substance-related outcomes at 6-mo follow-up if they were treated in inpatient compared with outpatient settings.
Suicidal patients displayed substantial improvement after substance use disorders treatment and seem particularly responsive to treatment in inpatient settings.