Drug-related Suicide Attempts Rise Dramatically

Rob Wipond
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There was a 51 percent increase in US hospital admissions for drug-related suicide attempts between 2005 and 2011, according to two reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). These types of visits rose from 151,477 in 2005 to 228,277 visits in 2011, stated a SAMHSA press release. One psychiatrist suggested in HealthDay that it was part of a cultural shift involving “pills versus guns” for suicide attempts.

“One report analyzed the increase in emergency department visits by age and found that the overall rise resulted from increases in visits by people aged 18 to 29 and people aged 45 to 64,” stated the SAMHSA press release. “Visits involving 18 to 29 year olds increased from 47,312 in 2005 to 75,068 — a 58 percent increase. Visits involving people aged 45 to 64 increased from 28,802 in 2005 to 58,776 visits in 2011 — a 104 percent increase. In 2011, these two age groups comprised approximately 60 percent of all drug-related emergency department visits involving suicide attempts.”

Another SAMHSA report focused on the 45 to 64 age group specifically, and found that the majority involved the non-medical use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter-medications such as anti-anxiety and insomnia medications, pain relievers and antidepressants.

Emergency physician Dr. Sampson Davis told HealthDay that doctors “need to decrease the amount of prescription narcotics, sleep and anti-anxiety medications being prescribed. Doctors aren’t to blame, but we must take ownership and responsibility for this.”

Emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts rise over six year period (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Press Release, August 7, 2014.)

U.S. Hospitals See Big Rise in Drug-Related Suicide Attempts (HealthDay, August 7, 2014)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

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