Suicidal ideation and attempts following nonmedical use of prescription opioids and related disorder

Julian Santaella-Tenorio, Silvia S. Martins, Magdalena Cerdá, Mark Olfson, Katherine M. Keyes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


BackgroundSince 1999, the rate of fatal prescription opioid overdoses and of suicides has dramatically increased in the USA. These increases, which have occurred among similar demographic groups, have led to the hypothesis that the opioid epidemic contributed to increases in suicidal behavior, though the underlying association remains poorly defined. We examine the association between nonmedical use of prescription opioids/opioid use disorder and suicidal ideation/attempts.MethodsWe used longitudinal data from a national representative sample of the US adult population, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Participants (n = 34 653) were interviewed in 2001-2002 (wave 1) and re-interviewed approximately 3 years later (wave 2). A propensity score analysis estimated the association between exposure to prescription opioids at wave 1 and prevalent/incident suicidal behavior at wave 2.ResultsHeavy/frequent ( 3/42-3 times a month) prescription opioid use was associated with prevalent suicide attempts [adjusted risk ratio (ARR) = 2.75, 95% CI 1.35-5.60]. Prescription opioid use disorder was associated with prevalent (ARR = 1.98, 95% CI 1.20-3.28) and incident suicidal ideation (ARR = 2.59, 95% CI 1.25-5.37), and prevalent attempts (ARR = 4.19, 95% CI 1.71-10.27). None of the exposures was associated with incident suicide attempts.ConclusionsHeavy/frequent opioid use and related disorder were associated with prevalent suicide attempts; opioid use disorder was also associated with the incident and prevalent suicidal ideation. Given population increases in nonmedical use of prescription opioids and disorder, the opioid crisis may have contributed to population increases in suicidal ideation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychological medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Attempted suicide
  • dependence
  • opioid abuse
  • opioid-related disorder
  • suicidal ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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