Sustained Outrage

Pharmaceutical drugs and suicide attempts

Here’s yet another reason to be extra careful with what’s in your medicine cabinet: When young adults try to kill themselves, the suicide attempt almost always involves pharmaceutical drugs.

More than 92 percent of suicide attempts by people between the ages of 18 and 24 included some kind of pharmaceutical drug use, according to this new analysis of emergency department visits in 2008 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Which is not to say that the pharmaceuticals were the method that every young adult used to try to kill him or herself (most likely herself: 57.6 percent of drug related suicide attempts in this age group were by women). But it does put drugs into the mix, with potentially devastating results. According to the study, suicide was the third leading cause of death in this age group in 2006. This age group was three times more likely to attempt suicide than adults in other age groups, with 1.2 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 25 having made an attempt.

Of the 600,000-plus emergency room visits by adults aged 18 to 24 in 2008, more than 38,000 — or 6.3 percent — involved a suicide attempt. Of the suicide attempts, the combination of alcohol and drugs is involved roughly three times out of ten.

You can read more about other SAMHSA reports here, here and here.