Stimulant Users: Two Times as Likely to Attempt Suicide

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith IV drug use comes a number of health concerns, from the transmission of viruses to overdoses; what’s more, new research indicates that people who use certain IV drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, are two times as likely to attempt suicide, Science Daily reports. In fact, 10 percent of all deaths among drug users are the result of suicide, say researchers at the University of Montreal and the CHUM Research Centre.

“We know that substance use is associated with the risk of suicide attempt and completed suicide. However, there are many different profiles of drug users. The data available until recently did not allow identifying the substance use patterns most at risk. We wanted to know who among substance users were actually more likely to attempt suicide,” said Didier Jutras-Aswad, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Montréal and researcher at the CHUM Research Centre.

The researchers looked at the different types of substances used among more than 1,200 people who inject drugs (PWIDs). The types of substances participants used were:

  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Opioids
  • Barbiturates
  • benzodiazepines
  • Cannabis
  • Alcohol

Researchers found that suicide attempts are most common among PWIDs. The use of stimulant drugs was associated with nearly two-fold greater odds of reporting an attempt at suicide than the use of other drugs. Even though opioids are considered to be among the drugs most harmful to one’s health and psycho-social well being, researchers did not find the same association to suicide as they did with stimulants. This difference could be the result of stimulant users being more impulsive and characterized by changing moods, as well as the fact that most substance abuse treatment programs are geared to opioid and alcohol addiction, according to the researchers.

“Our study addresses a number of important issues that could change practice. While it confirms that drug use itself represents a significant risk for suicidal behaviour, it identifies cocaine and amphetamine users as a higher-risk population. We therefore need to develop more effective intervention and prevention programs tailored to this target population. It would also seem essential to carry out further research with particular emphasis on a more detailed assessment of mental health and its interaction with drug use over time,” said Jutras-Aswad.