BLOG: Drinking and suicide: How alcohol use increases risks, and what can be done about it

Suicides among people who had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 g/dL or greater were considered alcohol involved. Beyond current theories regarding the link between suicide and alcohol use, effective prevention requires knowing who is most at risk. Our study found those who drink heavily and more frequently have increased risk of death by suicide, particularly over longer periods of time. Especially vulnerable populations include women, military personnel and youth. Safety planning is a brief intervention to help individuals survive suicidal crises by having them develop a set of steps to reduce the likelihood of engaging in suicidal behavior.

3. Suicidal Behavior and Alcohol Abuse in Affective Bonds and Social Relationships

Alcohol use disorders may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the combination of symptoms you’re experiencing, but drinking problems can exist regardless of a clinical diagnosis. As shown in Fig 4, the summary measure obtained from OR, estimating the risk of completed suicide, was greater than that obtained from RR. The reason is straightforward because OR inherently tends to exaggerate the magnitude of the association [62]. The quality of reporting and the risk of bias of the included studies was explored using Newcastle Ottawa Statement Manual [17]. The scale allocates a maximum of nine stars for quality of selection, comparability, exposure and outcome of the study participants.

Other Substances, Multiple Substance Use, and Suicide

Alcohol prevention programs may positively impact public mental health and help reduce suicide risk indirectly. Therefore, given the enormous socioeconomic burden of the latter, investigating their possible relationships is mandatory. Is a traffic accident secondary to dangerous driving after drinking alcohol an accident or a suicide attempt? How many of the fatalities, occurring after such events, are to be attributed to suicidal intent? We will here clarify some terms regarding alcohol use and suicide to help understand their relationship. Mood [10,16,17], anxiety [18] and schizophrenia-spectrum disorders [16,19,20] have been found to constitute independent risk factors for suicidal behavior.

Moderator analysis

For example, the current zeitgeist in emergency settings is to wait until intoxicated suicidal individuals “sober up” and reassess them for safety, with most being sent home with an outpatient appointment. What once might have been considered an aid, is now another (if not greater) strain on their life, harming relationships, jobs addiction specialist degrees certifications and qualifications and responsibilities, and even the body. Alcoholism has the power to devastate a person who previously had no history of health issues; consequently, when someone who does have underlying health conditions experiments with alcohol as a crutch or coping mechanism, in time, they might become more likely to take their own life.

Interaction tests were used to explore whether age and gender modified any associations between alcohol use and outcomes. There was no clear pattern based on levels of consumption, as there were not consistent differences in suicide attempt and self-harm risk between people with light, moderate, and hazardous drinking consumption. However, those in the highest category of consumption (‘probable dependence’, counted as drinking more than 30 units of alcohol per week) did face higher odds of suicide attempt and self-harm. Reducing alcohol consumption, thereby rendering the person less abusing and less dependent, may focus on socially reinforcing the sober condition rather than blaming alcohol intake. Increasing the person’s social acceptance is one of the means to reduce suicide thinking. In fact, people with alcohol abuse often are afflicted with self-blame and may feel rewarded or vindicated when the self-fulfilling prophecy of being rejected is realized.

We explored publication bias using the Egger’s and Begg’s tests and funnel plot. For each outcome we calculated the overall odds ratio (OR) or risk ratio (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). Further research is needed to examine specific subgroups at higher risk of suicide and to compare attempted suicides with completed suicides, to develop alternative risk-profiles and to devise intervention strategies that are robust enough to account for social and cultural differences. Suicide is a major public health problem and must be given high priority with regard to prevention and research. The cultural and biological underpinnings of alcohol use may have a preeminent place in this effort.

When it comes to diagnosing an alcohol use disorder and a major depressive disorder, it’s important to address them simultaneously, as they can significantly impact your recovery. Despite the above limitations, the current meta-analysis could efficiently estimate the association between AUD and suicide. Furthermore, a wide search strategy was developed in order to increase the sensitivity of the search to include as many studies as possible. Our study included all types of observational studies irrespective of age, country, race, publication date, and language. We screened 8548 retrieved references and included 31 eligible studies in the meta-analysis involving 420,732 participants.

  1. As a result, these health conditions and their consequences are not treated, nor are they prevented.
  2. Culturally, it is considered taboo and often the language we use is both polarizing and stigmatized.
  3. Suicide prevention is primary with respect to alcohol use, but must take into account the alcohol abuse especially in cases where the alcohol use facilitates suicide behavior.
  4. Ideation is further subclassified according to intent, that is, absent, undetermined or present (independent of its degree), and may be casual, transient, passive, active, or persistent.
  5. Several original studies have investigated the effect of alcohol use disorder (AUD) on suicidal thought and behavior, but there are serious discrepancies across the studies.

Alcohol use is a risk factor for suicidal behaviour, yet the nature of the relationship is unclear. Most research on the topic is conducted in clinical populations, with few studies exploring this association across the general population. Thus, the relationship between alcohol abuse and depression in determining suicidality is complex and multifaced, and there are many factors which may impact on suicidality in depressed patients. Several countries have established national suicide prevention strategies which include specific targets for the reduction of suicide. Suicide prevention strategies are targeted at both high-risk groups (selective or indicated) and general population (universal interventions) [226]. The spouses of suicides who misused alcohol were significantly more likely to react with anger than the spouses of those who did not.

The children of parents with alcohol use disorder who completed suicide were less likely to feel guilty or abandoned than the children of non-alcohol-related suicides. Alcohol use disorder before suicide changes the affective responses in the spouses and the children who are left behind. Survivor reactions to suicide are strongly influenced by the nature of the relationship between survivors and the suicide. Bereavement counsellors should be alert for complex grief and mourning responses among this group of suicide survivors.

Additionally, alcohol abuse generally makes other contributing factors to suicide worse. For example, alcohol exacerbates the symptoms of many mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and depression, all of which can contribute to suicide. Acute and chronic drug abuse may impair judgment, weaken impulse control, and interrupt neurotransmitter pathways, leading to suicidal tendencies through disinhibition (9). Additionally, ibuprofen and alcohol: is it safe to mix otc painkillers with alcohol physiological and metabolic stress resulting from drug abuse can lead to neurotoxic damage and other severe medical complications. This is particularly significant in older populations who are less physiologically resilient due to increased chronic medical comorbidities and neurodegenerative diseases (10). In older populations, suicide is closely linked first with psychiatric illness and subsequently with substance use disorders, particularly alcohol use disorder.

It’s very important to address both alcohol misuse and depression simultaneously when looking into treatment options, as these conditions are closely intertwined and can exacerbate each other, Kennedy explains. Depression bath salt drugs is a common and serious mood disorder, which can impact your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In the United States alone, an estimated 17.3 million adults have had at least one major depressive episode.

There is so much concern about Canadians’ drinking that some policymakers are advocating for warning labels on alcohol bottles like those on cigarette packages. In fact, we are so concerned about excessive drinking that we implement initiatives like Dry January where we challenge ourselves not to drink alcohol for a month. Providing patients with resources is an opportunity that clinicians should use to empower patients to take initiative in maintaining and protecting their mental health.