Prescription Opioid and Benzodiazepine Misuse is Associated with Suicidal Ideation in Older Adults




Schepis, Ty S.
Simoni-Wastila, Linda
McCabe, Sean Esteban

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Objectives: Suicide in older adults is a major public health issue. Past research across the US adult population has linked prescription medication misuse with suicidal ideation. No work has evaluated associations between prescription opioid or benzodiazepine misuse and suicidal ideation in older adults, and this work aimed to address that gap. Methods/Design: Data were from adults 50 years and older participating in the 2015 to 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (n = 17 608). Design-based logistic regression evaluated links between any past-year prescription opioid or benzodiazepine use without misuse or prescription misuse and past-year suicidal ideation, after controlling for sociodemographic, physical health, mental health, and substance use correlates associated with suicidal ideation. Results: After controlling for all correlates, past-year use without misuse of prescription opioids or benzodiazepines was not associated with past-year suicidal ideation in older adults. In contrast, past-year opioid misuse (AOR = 1.84, 95% CI = 1.07-3.19) and benzodiazepine misuse (AOR = 2.00, 95% CI = 1.01-3.94) were significantly associated with past-year suicidal ideation, even after controlling for all covariates. While 2.2% of US older adults not engaged in either opioid or benzodiazepine misuse reported past-year suicidal ideation, 25.4% of those who misused both medication classes endorsed such suicidality (AOR = 4.73, 95% CI = 2.07-10.79). Conclusions: Both past-year prescription opioid and benzodiazepine misuse are associated with past-year suicidal ideation in US older adults. Clinicians encountering older adult patients at-risk for or engaged in prescription medication misuse also should screen for suicidality.



older adults, opioids, prescription misuse, suicidality, Benzodiazepine, Psychology


Schepis, T. S., Simoni-Wastila, L., & McCabe, S. E. (2019). Prescription opioid and benzodiazepine misuse is associated with suicidal ideation in older adults. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 34(1), pp. 122–129.


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