Increase in U.S. Pediatric Suicides Driven by Opioid Crisis

Increase tied to decline in living conditions for children, not illicit opioid use

TUESDAY, Dec. 12, 2023 (HealthDay News) — There has been a rise in child suicides in the United States since 2010, which was fueled by the nation’s opioid crisis, according to a study published online Nov. 27 in Demography.

David Powell, from RAND in Arlington, Virginia, documented child suicide rates from 1980 to 2020 using the U.S. National Vital Statistics System Multiple Cause of Death database.

Powell found that after generally declining for decades, suicide rates among children aged 10 to 17 years accelerated from 2011 to 2018, with an unprecedented rise in both duration and magnitude. When considering the role of the illicit opioid crisis in driving this mental health crisis, he found that areas more exposed to reformulation of an abuse-deterrent version of OxyContin (as measured by pre-reformulation rates of OxyContin misuse in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health) were more affected by the transition from prescription to illicit opioids and experienced sharper growth in child suicide rates.

“The evidence suggests that children”s illicit opioid use did not increase, implying that the illicit opioid crisis engendered higher suicide propensities by increasing suicidal risk factors for children, such as increasing rates of child neglect and altering household living arrangements,” Powell writes.

Abstract/Full Text

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