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A Quarter of US Suicide Victims Are Drunk

Rates of intoxicated suicide are highest among younger men, veterans and Native Americans.

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Alcohol may increase suicidal tendencies.
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By Valerie Tejeda

05/29/12

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Almost a quarter of US citizens who commit suicide are drunk when they do it, according to a new study. Portland State University researchers analyzed the blood-alcohol levels of suicide victims across 16 states and found that out of 58,000 cases, 22% were considered drunk when they died. These people are more likely to use violent means such as hanging themselves, shooting themselves, or jumping to their death compared to those who take their own lives while sober. 17% of women and 24% of men who killed themselves were considered intoxicated by legal standards, with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 g/dL. “This is the largest study to date in the US that looked at blood alcohol levels at the time of death,” says lead researcher Dr. Mark Kaplan. “Most studies in the past have focused on the risk of suicide among people with chronic alcohol problems like alcoholism or alcohol dependence.” The highest rates of drunk suicides were among those from rural areas, young men, veterans and American Indians/Alaska Natives, and the suicide rate is four times higher for men than for women. “When you look at men who die by suicide across the age span, there is a dramatic reduction in the likelihood of intoxication among older men,” says Kaplan. “For younger men, the act of dying by suicide may be more impulsive, and alcohol might facilitate the completion of that suicide. We’re more likely to see young men taking their lives in the presence of life crises such as financial problems, criminal justice problems or problems with an intimate partner. Older men are more likely to take their lives in the presence or chronic health problems.” Suicide is the 10th most common cause of death in the US.

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