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Alcohol Use and Suicide Risk

Facts About Alcohol & Suicide

What’s the problem?

  • Alcohol is involved over a quarter of all suicides in the US (approximately 7500 per year).
  • Suicide is 120 times more prevalent among adult alcoholics than in the general population.
  • Alcohol abusers have higher rates of both attempted and completed suicide than non-abusers.
  • More than one-third of suicide victims used alcohol just prior to death.

How is alcohol use related to suicidal risk?

Alcohol increases impulsivity and decreases inhibition. It increases negative self-image and decreases self-esteem; deepens depression and social isolation; and rises with the amount and length of time alcohol is consumed. Alcohol use fosters either/or and all or nothing thinking, and a lower concern for the future consequences of one’s actions. Many suicide attempts occur during binge drinking.

Among those who are alcohol dependent, 18% complete suicide. Alcohol plays a major role in suicides among elders and veterans. In suicides associated with alcohol misuse men account for 80% of the victims, women for 20%. Alcohol use is also often a factor in suicidal behavior among male teens.

What are the main risk factors for suicide linked to alcohol use?

Personal loss (divorce, separation, death) Legal/criminal justice problems
Job problems/unemployment/financial loss Early onset of drinking
History of abuse, trauma, violence, pain Family history of alcoholism
Past suicidal behavior and attempts Access to firearms

What about co-occurring disorders?

Co-occurring alcohol abuse and mental illness significantly increases risk. Those who misuse alcohol and street or prescription drugs have a 40 times greater risk of suicide. Co-occurrence opens an individual’s exposure to more suicide risk factors, weakens family supports, and lessens the likelihood of help and intervention.

What about “chronic suicidality”?

Many chronic alcohol misusers make frequent suicide threats, but often have vague plans and low intent to die. This behavior is commonly coincident with demands for immediate shelter, hospitalization, detox, rehab or other help. Such contingent threats (“If you don’t…I will…”) are often regarded as manipulation. Nonetheless most “chronic suiciders” have multiple serious risk factors and may be at increasing risk of suicide.

What are the immediate danger signs of suicide?

Immediately call 610-279-6100, 9-1-1, or 1-800- 273-TALK (National Suicide Lifeline) if you encounter:

  • Someone threatening to hurt or kill herself or himself
  • Someone looking for ways to take her or his life (i.e., a gun, pills, other lethal means)
  • Someone talking, writing, or drawing about death, dying, or suicide
  • Other signs may include giving away personal items, trying to put personal affairs in order, making unexpected calls/visits to relatives or friends, and references to a doable plan for completing suicide.

 

If you or someone you know is thinking
about suicide, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Source: http://www.mces.org/pages/suicide_fact_alcohol.php

 

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