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Lisa Black

High school students who reported misusing an opioids prescription in the past or present were significantly more likely to demonstrate suicidal behaviors than those who never misused an opioids prescription, according to a study published in the April 2021 Pediatrics. The study, “Current Prescription Opioid Misuse and Suicide Risk Behaviors Among High School Students” (published online March 1), investigated whether the association between youths’ prescription opioid misuse and suicide outcomes differed by recency of prescription opioid misuse (none, past, current misuse). Prescription misuse was defined as taking a prescription opioid without a doctor’s prescription or differently than how a doctor prescribed it. The researchers analyzed data from 13,677 U.S. high school students participating in the 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Students who reported current prescription opioid misuse had the highest adjusted prevalence ratios for suicidal ideation. During 2019, approximately 40% of high school students had felt sad or hopeless for two or more weeks, during the previous year; 19% had seriously considered suicide; 9% had attempted suicide; and 7% reported current prescription opioid misuse. Approximately 33% of youth who reported current prescription misuse and 19% who reported past prescription opioid misuse had attempted suicide during 2019, compared with only 6% of students who reported no prescription opioid misuse. The increased risk for suicide-related behaviors and experiences, especially among students reporting current prescription opioid use, remained even after accounting for demographic characteristics and alcohol, marijuana, and illicit drug use. The authors recommend comprehensive prevention approaches that address the intersections between suicide and prescription opioid misuse.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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