• Assessed the associations of reasons for prescription opioid misuse subtypes and suicidality.
• Pain only, other reasons, and mixed subtypes were independently associated with suicidality.
• These reasons for misuse may be potential suicide risk mitigation targets.
Understanding reasons for prescription opioid misuse can help elucidate suicide prevention efforts. The goal of the current study is to assess associations of reasons for prescription opioid misuse subtypes and suicide-related variables. We also assessed whether prescription opioid misuse differentiates ideators from those who attempt suicide.
Using data from the 2015–2017 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (N = 45,074), prescription opioid misuse subtypes were grouped as follows: (a) Pain only, (b) Other reasons, and (c) Mixed reasons (i.e., pain and at least one other reason). Logistic regressions examined associations of misuse subtypes and past 12-month suicide-related variables (ideation, planning, attempts) relative to non-misusers. Logistic regression analyses were also conducted among the subset reporting ideation to assess whether prescription opioid misuse differentiated ideators with no attempt from ideators with an attempt.
In adjusted models, the Pain only and the Other reasons subtypes were associated with ideation and planning, but not attempts. The Mixed reasons subtype had higher odds of suicide ideation and planning compared to those not misusing prescription opioids and the Pain only misuse subtype. The Mixed reasons subtype had higher odds of a suicide attempt only when compared to those not misusing prescription opioids. Prescription opioid misuse was also associated with suicide attempts among the subset of ideators.
Findings indicate that people misuse prescription opioids for various reasons, and misuse subtypes are associated with past 12-month suicidality. Addressing pain and other reasons for misuse together through use of evidence-based treatments may help mitigate suicide risk.