‘The Association between Non-Medical Prescription Drug Use, Depressive Symptoms, and Suicidality among College Students’ from Addictive Behaviors
Purpose: Studies have substantiated a relationship between drug use, depression, and suicidality. However, little research has examined this relationship with prescription drugs. Given the prevalence of non-medical prescription drug use (NMPDU) among college students, this study explored the association between general and specific NMPDU, depressive symptoms, and suicidality.
Methods: Data from the Fall 2008 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) was utilized (N = 22,783). Five separate logistic regression models were employed, with the first combining any NMPDU (antidepressants, painkillers, sedatives, and stimulants) followed by four additional regressions for each drug, and then separated by gender. Models were estimated before and after control for key covariates.
Results: Approximately 13% of participants reported NMPDU. After covariate adjustment, those who reported feeling hopeless, sad, depressed, or considered suicide were 1.22–1.31 times more likely to report NMPDU (p < .05). Those who reported feeling hopeless, sad, or depressed were 1.18–1.43 times more likely to report opioid painkiller use; those who reported feeling sad, depressed, or considered suicide were 1.22–1.38 times more likely to report stimulant use; those who reported being depressed were 1.36 times more likely to report sedative use; and those who reported feeling hopeless or depressed were 1.44 and 1.91 times more likely to report antidepressant use (p < .05). When the adjusted models were repeated separately by gender, results were more pronounced for females, especially for females who reported painkiller use.
Conclusions: Depressive symptoms and suicidality were significantly associated with greater odds of any NMPDU, with painkiller use (especially for females) representing the greatest correlate among college students. Results suggest that students may be inappropriately self-medicating psychological distress with prescription medications.