A new study has established a glaring link between prescription opioid use and suicidal behavior among high schoolers. The study, published in Pediatrics, claimed that one in three students misusing prescription opioids claimed to have attempted suicide.
The study aimed to investigate a link between suicidal behaviors and the timing of the opioids misuse, whether current or historical use affected the link to suicidal behavior or not. The link has long been a point of discussion. Several researchers pointed out that prescription opioid use leads to a higher risk of suicidality, which is known as the risk of suicide.
The Pediatrics study questioned a total of 13,600 US high school students about whether they had used prescription opioids at any point in their lives. The line of question specifically focused on whether the students had misused the opioids, taken them without a prescription, or not following their doctor’s directions.
Around 7.4% of the teens interviewed claimed to have misused prescription opioids, which 7.2% claimed to have done so in the last month or so. Furthermore, the study found out that recent or current misuse of prescription opioids was more likely to lead to suicidal behaviors than historical use. 33% of the students currently misusing prescription opioids had attempted suicide, while 19% with past misuse had attempted it. 6% of students with no history of misuse had attempted suicide.
The immense risk of prescription opioid misuse for teenagers was explained by behavioral scientist and lead author of the study, Natalie Watkins: “Developmentally, adolescents’ brains have not yet fully matured, making them more susceptible to engaging in risky and impulsive behaviors, such as substance use.”
Why Do Teens Use Prescription Opioids?
While the study was able to highlight the link between opioid misuse and suicidal behavior, it admitted to the limitation of not knowing the level of misuse. However, besides that, prescription opioid misuse by students has been called a nuanced subject to broach.
The most common reason for teens turning towards opioid use may be to ease physical pain from injuries. Other prominent reasons include curiosity and peer pressure. Students might feel pressured to take them to socialize. Teens want to experience the “euphoric high” they have heard about so many times.
Experts also suggest that the students take prescription opioids to relieve trauma, emotional stress, tension, or other mental issues. Students fighting depression and suicidal tendencies might also turn towards prescription opioid misuse. While the start could be casual, it can quickly turn to addiction and misuse.
Disparity Across Demographics
The study also revealed a baffling disparity in prescription opioid misuse across demographics. Women, people of color, and gay, lesbian, or bisexual teens featured far more prominently than white males.
This disparity is attributed to how these people feel alienated in society and how they are treated. The emotional trauma of living in an unaccepting society can cause mental issues that they try to deal with prescription opioids, often misusing them.