Opioid prescribing and suicide risk in the United States
Olfson, M., Waidmann, T., King, M., & Pancini, V., & Schoenbaum, M.
Objective: This study estimates associations of regional change in opioid prescribing with total suicide deaths and suicide overdose deaths involving opioids. Methods: A panel analysis was performed with 2009–2017 U.S. national IQVIA Longitudinal Prescription Database data and National Center for Health Statistics mortality data aggregated into commuting zones (N=886), which together span the United States. Opioid prescription exposures included opioid prescriptions per capita and percentages of patients with any opioid prescription, with high-dose prescriptions (>120 mg of morphine equivalents), with long-term prescriptions (≥60 consecutive days), and with prescriptions from three or more prescribers. Linear regression models were used with year and commuting zone fixed effects. Results: Suicide deaths were significantly positively associated with opioid prescriptions per capita (β=0.045), having any opioid prescription (β=0.069), having high-dose prescriptions (β=0.024), having long-term prescriptions (β=0.028), and having three or more opioid prescribers (β=0.046). Similar significant associations were observed between each of the five opioid prescription measures and suicide overdose deaths involving opioids (β range, 0.029–0.042). However, opioid prescriptions per capita, having any opioid prescription, and having three or more opioid prescribers were each negatively associated with unintentional opioid-related deaths in people in the 10- to 24-year and 25- to 44-year age groups. Conclusions: In this retrospective study of U.S. commuting zone–level opioid prescriptions and mortality, regional decreases in opioid prescriptions were consistently associated with declines in total suicide deaths, including suicide overdose deaths involving opioids. For some opioid prescribing measures, negative associations were observed with unintentional overdose deaths involving opioids among younger people. Individual-level inferences are limited by the ecological nature of the analysis.