Alcohol, Drugs and Suicide Prevention

1 June 2011
Suicide Prevention Australia is pleased to announce the release of its latest position statementAlcohol, Drugs and Suicide Prevention. The paper sheds light on the disturbing role that alcohol and drug abuse play with suicidal behaviour. A link between drug and alcohol abuse is strongly established People who abuse alcohol may be at up to 6 times greater risk of suicide than the general population, while cannabis users may be at 10 times greater risk of suicide. Youth programs addressing the social determinants of drug use and promoting alternative pathways are essential. Dr. Michael Dudley AM, Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia commented ‘The key message from the paper is the need for so much more to be done around alcohol and drug abuse. The link between drug and alcohol abuse has been identified as a significant risk factor in suicide, this is particularly unsettling for a country battling with alcohol binge drinking and recreational and prescription drug abuse problems.’ Studies show that alcohol disorders are the second most commonly diagnosed disorder among those who die by suicide; such studies indicate a six-fold risk of suicidality among those with alcohol dependence compared to their peers. Ryan McGlaughlin, CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia added ‘The research suggests that the risk of suicide among drug users is between four and fourteen times that of the general population; due to the effects of drug abuse on psychological, social and health factors.’ ‘To prevent suicide, training is recommended for alcohol and other drug workers so that they can recognise and respond to suicide risks, while reciprocal training is needed for suicide prevention professionals to respond to substance abuse’ he concluded. The paper calls for more to be done with young people including raising their awareness of suicide prevention and establishing protective factors. It found a focus on treating people whose substance abuse is already established missed the opportunity to intervene before either substance abuse or suicidality becomes a problem. Social inclusion, early childhood programs and life-stage support show much promise for reducing the vulnerabilities experienced by the cohort of people who are at risk of both substance abuse and suicidality.