Big jump in young men trying to kill themselves with drugs

A new national study shows that from 2005 to 2009 there was a 55 percent increase in emergency department visits for drug related suicide attempts by men aged 21 to 34 — from 19,024 visits in 2005 to 29,407 visits in 2009. In 2009, there were a total of 77,971 emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts among males of all ages.

The report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that visits from younger adult males involving certain pharmaceuticals increased substantially.

Among males aged 21 to 34, emergency department visits for suicide attempts involving antidepressants increased by 155 percent and anti-anxiety and insomnia medications increased by 93 percent.

Emergency department visits for suicide attempts among males aged 35 to 49 involving narcotic pain relievers almost doubled from 2005 to 2009, while the numbers almost tripled among men aged 50 and older.

“While we have learned much about how to prevent suicide, it continues to be a leading cause of death among people who abuse alcohol and drugs,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.  “The misuse of prescription drugs is clearly helping to fuel the problem.  Greater awareness about the warning signs and risk factors for suicide, including abuse of alcohol and drugs, can help people take action and save lives.”

Common warning signs of someone who may be at increased risk for suicide can include:

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Acting anxiously, agitated or recklessly
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Displaying mood swings

People in crisis or concerned about someone they believe may be at risk for suicide should contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) for round-the-clock, immediate assistance anywhere in the country.

Trends in Emergency Department Visits for Drug-Related Suicide Attempts among Males: 2005 and 2009, was developed as part of SAMHSA’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality – an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues.  The report is based on data from the 2005 – 2009 Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports.  DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the nation.

The study focused on cases where a determination was made by the hospital emergency department staff that the admission was an intentional drug-related suicide attempt, rather than an unintentional overdose.

The full report is available on the web at The full report is available on the web

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