Most people think of drug addicts as simply lacking self-control, but a new study suggests…
Stimulant Use Ups Suicide Risk in Injection Drug Users
Drug users who inject amphetamine and cocaine have increased chances of attempting suicide, according to new findings from a group of Canadian researchers.
Statistically speaking, all people affected by substance addiction have increased chances of thinking about, attempting and committing suicide. In a study published in February 2015 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from three Canadian universities assessed the suicide-related impact of the consumption of specific types of substances by injection drug users. These researchers concluded that injection drug users who primarily consume certain stimulant drugs/medications have increased suicidal tendencies. They also concluded that the secondary consumption of certain other drugs/medications also contributes to injection drug users’ suicide risks.
Suicide and Substance Abuse/Addiction
Suicide accounts for about 12.6 out of every 100,000 deaths in America, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in late 2014. This figure makes suicide the 10th most likely cause of death in the U.S. No one knows exactly how many people make unsuccessful suicide attempts, although public health officials believe that individuals in this category substantially outnumber those individuals who actually kill themselves.
The vast majority of people who commit suicide have diagnosable mental health problems. In turn, substance use disorder is one of the mental health conditions likely to occur in suicidal individuals. Compared to people not affected by alcohol- or drug-related substance use disorder, people affected by the condition have an almost 500 percent higher chance of making a suicide attempt at some point in their lives. Men with diagnosable drug or alcohol problems appear to commit suicide about 130 percent more often than their same-gender counterparts not dealing with such problems. Women with diagnosable drug or alcohol problems appear to kill themselves fully 550 percent more often than their same-gender counterparts not dealing with substance-related issues.
Injection Drug Use
Injection drug use is characterized by the rapid introduction of mind-altering drugs or medication into the bloodstream, as well as an associated rapid change in normal brain function. Most people involved in this form of substance intake rely on a syringe and hypodermic needle to inject drugs or medications directly into a vein. Alternately, an injection drug user can use a syringe and hypodermic needle to introduce drugs or medications into muscle tissue or under the surface of the skin.
The substance most commonly associated with injection drug use is heroin. However, injection drug users may also use a range of other mind-altering substances, including other types of opioid drugs or medications, the stimulant drug cocaine, the stimulant drug methamphetamine, the stimulant drug/medication amphetamine and sedative-hypnotic medications known as barbiturates and benzodiazepines.
Increased Risk With Certain Substances
In the study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers from Canada’s University of Montreal, McGill University and University of Quebec at Three Rivers used data gathered from 1,240 Canadian injection drug users from 2004 to 2011 to assess the suicide-related risks associated with the use of specific drugs or medications. In addition to examining the impact of substances directly injected into the body, the researchers considered the impact of non-injected substances consumed by injection drug users. The frame of reference for suicidal behavior was involvement in a suicide attempt in the half-year timeframe before enrollment in the study.
At the beginning of the study, 5.7 percent of the participants reported making a suicide attempt in the previous half year. Over the following seven years, an additional 11.5 percent of the participants tried to kill themselves. After analyzing their data, the researchers concluded that injection drug users who occasionally or habitually inject cocaine have elevated suicide risks. They also concluded that injection drug users who habitually inject amphetamine share these elevated risks. In addition, the researchers concluded that injection drug users who also habitually consume sedative-hypnotic medications form of third group of individuals with heightened chances of making a suicide attempt.
Interestingly, the researchers did not find a connection between occasional or habitual injection of opioids and increased suicide risks. They also found no connection between increased chances of suicide and the secondary consumption of alcohol or marijuana/cannabis among injection users.