There is evidence that religion is, indeed, the opiate of the masses, in a good way. It is not, however, the whisky of the masses, the meth of the masses, the cocaine of the masses, or particularly protective against suicide.
First, I document that opioid deaths and religiosity are strongly negatively correlated across counties.
Then, I find that an 8% decrease in religious employment – equivalent to the decrease observed since the height of the Catholic sex abuse scandal – would increase opioid deaths by 4.8 per 100,000, approximately a third of the current opioid epidemic. The effects of religiosity are concentrated in areas with higher Catholic rates before the scandal.
In contrast, I find no evidence that religiosity affects other drug deaths, suicides, or mortality due to alcoholic liver disease.
According to this MIT economist.
Of course, like any observational evidence of this kind, there are myriad potential confounds.