Misuse of prescription opioids or benzodiazepines (such as Xanax) was associated with suicidal ideation in a study of US older adults. The study of 17,608 adults aged 50 years and older, past-year use (without misuse) of prescription opioids or benzodiazepines was not associated with past-year suicidal ideation. The study was published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

In contrast, past-year opioid misuse was associated with an 84% increased odds of past-year suicidal ideation, and past-year benzodiazepine misuse was associated with a twofold increased odds, after controlling for various factors related to suicide in other work.

Suicidal Ideation

While 2.2% of US adults were not engaged in either opioid or benzodiazepine misuse reported past-year suicidal ideation , the rate was 25.4% in those who misused both medication classes.

Public Health Issue

Suicide is a major public health concern in older adults. Our study found a strong link between prescription opioid and benzodiazepine misuse and suicidal ideation, which is particularly concerning because these medications are commonly prescribed to older adults.

Older Adults

Prescribers and other health professionals are encouraged to screen for prescription opioid or benzodiazepine misuse in older adults who have prescribed these medications prevent suicide.

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.