Skip to main content

Students Currently Misusing Prescription Opioids at Greater Risk of Suicide

March 12, 2021

While past studies have found that youth with a lifetime history of prescription opioid misuse are at an increased risk for suicidal behaviors, newly released research has found that those who reported they are currently misusing prescription opioids were significantly more likely to have considered attempting suicide, planned a suicide attempt or attempted suicide compared to those who had engaged in past misuse.

The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

The study looked at data from 13,677 high school students who participated in the 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Of those surveyed, 7.4% reported past prescription opioid misuse and 7.2% reported current misuse, which was defined as occurring within the previous 30 days.

Among those reporting current prescription opioid misuse, 32.5% reported having attempted suicide compared to 18.7% of those with past misuse. Of the students surveyed who reported no prescription opioid misuse, 6% said they had attempted suicide.

“These findings suggest that identifying youth who are struggling with current [prescription opioid misuse] and connecting them with substance use treatment and services could be a critical approach for preventing youth suicide,” the researchers wrote in Pediatrics. “The findings from this analysis also suggest that although youth who report current [prescription opioid misuse] may be at highest risk for suicide risk behaviors and experiences, all youth who report [prescription opioid misuse] in their lifetime are at an elevated risk.”

Back to Top