Substance misuse in life and death in a 2-year cohort of suicides

Karen Galway, Diana Gossrau-Breen, Sharon Mallon, Lynette Hughes, Michael Rosato, Janeet Rondon-Sulbaran, Gerry Leavey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Although substance misuse is a key risk factor in suicide, relatively little is known about the relationship between lifetime misuse and misuse at the time of suicide.

Aims: To examine the relationship between substance misuse and subsequent suicide.

Method: Linkage of coroners' reports to primary care records for 403 suicides occurring over 2 years.

Results: With alcohol misuse, 67% of the cohort had previously sought help for alcohol problems and 39% were intoxicated at the time of suicide. Regarding misuse of other substances, 54% of the cohort was tested. Almost one in four (38%) tested positive, defined as an excess of drugs over the prescribed therapeutic dosage and/or detection of illicit substances. Those tested were more likely to be young and have a history of drug misuse.

Conclusions: A deeper understanding of the relationship between substance misuse and suicide could contribute to prevention initiatives. Furthermore, standardised toxicology screening processes would avoid diminishing the importance of psychosocial factors involved in suicide as a 'cause of death'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292
Number of pages6
JournalThe British Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number3
Early online date11 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


  • Mental health
  • suicide
  • help-seeking
  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • substance misuse


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