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Meth Users Much More Likely to Try Suicide

FRIDAY Dec. 30, 2011 -- Drug users who inject themselves with methamphetamine are 80 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those abusing other drugs, new research reveals.

The magnified risk for meth users is probably rooted in a mixture of social, structural and neurobiological factors, say researchers from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

"Compared to other injection drug users, it is possible that methamphetamine users are more isolated and have poorer social support systems," study author and Mailman postdoctoral fellow Brandon Marshall said in a Columbia news release.

Marshall and his colleagues report their findings in the December issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The team used material from interviews involving nearly 1,900 men and women that were conducted in the Vancouver area over seven years, from 2001 to 2008. The authors note that Vancouver's downtown eastside district is well known as a center for illegal drug use.

"This is one of North America's largest cohorts of injection drug users, and the research is among the first longitudinal studies to examine attempts of suicide by injection drug users," Marshall (who is also a research coordinator for the Urban Health Research Initiative in British Colombia) said in the release.

A little more than a third of the participants were women, and another third were of Aboriginal descent. All responded to questions regarding their drug use, treatment experience and risky behaviors with respect to HIV. All told, 8 percent were found to have previously attempted suicide.

The authors found that meth injection was linked to a greater risk for suicide attempts across the board. That is, even infrequent meth users bore an elevated risk for attempting suicide, while those who frequently injected meth faced the highest such risk.

"The high rate of attempted suicide observed in this study suggests that suicide prevention efforts should be an integral part of substance abuse treatment programs," Marshall said. "In addition, people who inject methamphetamine but are not in treatment would likely benefit from improved suicide risk assessment and other mental health support services within health care settings."

The study was funded by both the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

More information

For more on methamphetamine, visit the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Posted: December 2011


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