Using Cocaine and Alcohol Could Lead to Suicide

Alcohol Rehab in Raleigh NCA person struggling with substance abuse may be more likely to commit suicide, but a 2016 study reports that there may be a significant link between two particular substances – alcohol and cocaine. Since we specialize in drug and alcohol rehab in Raleigh NC, this new information is important to us.

In today's post, we're going to take a closer look.

Increased Suicide Risks Among Users Who Combine Alcohol and Cocaine

The study was conducted by researchers at Brown University between 2010 and 2012. They reviewed data on 874 men and women who went to the emergency room in the U.S. during that time.  The patients were participants of another study done by the University of Massachusetts Medical School, which was part of an Emergency Department Safety Assessment and Follow-up Evaluation (ED-SAFE) study. The study follows up with people who were admitted for suicide attempts, or who had indicated that they were at risk of attempting suicide.

Researchers for ED-SAFE gathered information about the patients, then followed up with them a year later. Of the 874 people that were surveyed, 195 tried to commit suicide again within that year.

One of the things that researchers asked the participants was if they had taken any drugs or had used alcohol. Many admitted to using marijuana, prescription pain pills, tranquilizers and stimulants. However, the combination of cocaine and alcohol was the only one with a significant outcome.

Of the patients, 298 had consumed alcohol heavily and 72 had used cocaine. Of those numbers, 41 had used both. They were shown to have a 2.4 time risk of attempting suicide again over those who did not abuse both alcohol and cocaine. The findings varied according to age, gender and race, but the combination of the two was still a prevalent red flag.

They also found that older people had a more significant association between abusing drugs or alcohol and risk of suicide. However, women and white people seemed to have less of an indicator.

Sarah Arias, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, led the study.

She and her co-authors wrote, ““These disparate findings emphasize the complex interaction of sex, substance use, and suicide attempts. They also suggest women may be differentially at risk depending on whether they report substance use or past suicide attempts.”

Because the study is based on data obtained through observation, she cannot speculate causation. She hopes that this can help increase understanding of how drug abuse can affect someone’s risk of suicide.

“It’s not a clear-cut, straightforward association. Even though substance use is often touted as a very strong predictor of suicidal intentions and behaviors, when we look at individual substances we’re seeing that there’s not that consistency in the future association with behavior,” she said.

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The interview process through ED-SAFE, which is where data that was used in the Brown University study was obtained, screened patients on their risk factors for suicide. It included depressive symptoms, active suicidal ideation and previous suicide attempts.

After the patients were interviewed by ED-SAFE, they were given resources such as community-based services to turn to, a self-help safety plan in case they felt the urge again as well as numbers for suicide prevention hotlines.

“We’re on our way to trying to identify factors that can be used to better assess and identify people who are at risk for suicide, and ultimately I think this is a step in the right direction to get a better picture,” Arias said of ED-SAFE’s data and the findings.

A study done a few years prior found a similar result among people who used cocaine or amphetamines and consumed alcohol. It was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence in 2014. Researchers followed users of injected drugs over seven years. The participants were required to answer a survey every six months.

At the end of the study, they concluded that people who used cocaine and amphetamines were twice as likely to attempt suicide as people who used others drugs, such as opiates, sedatives and marijuana. The study did not find that the inclusion of alcohol increased the risk. However, the study did lead researchers to find similar conclusions.

Didier Justras-Aswad, author of the study, said, ““These substances may have an impact on the brain that may lead people to commit suicide.”

He also said that when someone attempts suicide once there is a good chance he or she will try again, and possibly succeed.

Another factor that may cause people who use cocaine or amphetamines to attempt suicide is a lack of good treatment programs. He notes that treatment for alcohol and opiate addiction includes medication, which can help users to ease out of dependency.

People who struggle with addiction to cocaine or amphetamines may have a harder time finding a program that works for them.

Justras-Aswad has used his findings in his own psychiatry practice and how he helps patients. He pays more attention to signs of suicide risk in his patients who use cocaine or amphetamines.

He is also trying new ways to treat people with addictions to those drugs including giving them better ways to cope with stress, emotional issues or depression.

“In the research center, we’re exploring, developing and testing new medications to treat cocaine addiction. That will hopefully help us to better treat these people who for now don’t have a lot of treatments available to them,” he said.

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