Methods: This study used data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The sample included 11,489 non-Hispanic White, African American, Asian and non-White Hispanic adolescents aged 12 to 17. Weighted logistic regression analysis was used to examine the relationship of race/ethnicity in the relationship of NMPOU with 1) having serious thoughts of killing oneself, 2) made plans to kill oneself, and 3) attempted to kill oneself, all within the past year. Control variables included socio-demographics, other substance use, social factors and health and mental health.
Results: Analysis indicated that adolescents who engaged in NMPOU had higher prevalence of serious thoughts of suicide (31.0%), making a suicide plan (22.1%) and making a suicide attempt (17.9%) compared to non-users (thoughts: 9.8%; plan: 4.5%; attempt: 3.0%). The race/ethnic profile of users and non-users were statistically similar. When controlling for all other variables, NMPOU was associated with increased odds for making a suicide plan (OR = 1.68, p < 0.05). NMPOU was not significantly associated with thoughts of suicide and suicide attempts. Asian adolescents had the highest prevalence in the three measures of suicidality compared to all other race/ethnic groups, and had higher odds for having a suicide plan (OR = 1.62, p<0.01) and making a suicide attempt (OR = 1.94, p < 0.05). Furthermore, the interaction effect for Asian ethnicity and NMPOU was significant for having a suicide plan (OR = 4.95, p < 0.05) and making a suicide attempt (OR = 7.33, p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Findings suggest that NMPOU is associated with higher prevalence and odds of suicidality among adolescents. Although opioid misuse was similar across race/ethnic groups, Asian adolescents were disproportionately impacted by the effects of the opioid epidemic. Future research can examine the relationship of opioids, mental health, and engagement in mental health treatment for at-risk populations of adolescents, in particular with Asian young adults. Social workers can highlight the critical need for prevention and mental health treatment through advocacy and engagement to address this on-going public health issue.