Prescription Opioid Misuse and Suicidal Behaviors Among US Veterans: A Cross-Sectional Study from the 2015–2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health

Christian A. Betancourt*, Panagiota Kitsantas, Deborah G. Goldberg, Beth A. Hawks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Suicide continues to be a serious public health issue for the US veteran population as its prevalence has skyrocketed over the last 15 years. This cross-sectional study estimates the prevalence of suicidal behaviors and prescription opioid misuse among veterans and identifies associations between suicidal behaviors and misuse of prescription opioids using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The findings show that approximately 3.7% of all veterans in this sample experienced suicidal behaviors, while nearly 3.0% reported misusing prescription opioids. Veterans who misused prescription opioids had a much higher prevalence of suicidal behaviors (16.3%) than veterans who used prescription opioids without misuse (4.8%) and those who did not use prescription opioids at all (2.5%). Opioid misuse is strongly associated with suicidal behaviors among veterans. Immediate substance use and mental health screenings, upon first contact with a healthcare system, are imperative in preventing and reducing suicide rates within this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-164
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Behavioral Health Services and Research
Volume50
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2023
Externally publishedYes

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