Researchers at RAND Corp. found an association between the rise in child suicides and the reformulation of prescription opioids to discourage intentional misuse. This led to a stark increase in the use of illicit opioids such as heroin, and may have contributed to the growth of illicit opioid markets, the researchers wrote.
They compared child suicide rates in each state. They found the largest increase in cases occurred in states where the shift to illicit opioids was greatest. They said the reformulation of OxyContin could explain almost half of the increase in U.S. child suicides between 2011 and 2020.
“This study provides evidence of the importance of a social change—the reformulation of OxyContin—as a potentially important factor contributing to the recent unexplained increase in child suicides,” lead researcher David Powell said in a news release. “The transition to illicit opioids has altered households and society in several documented ways and likely on countless unstudied dimensions.”