Alcohol and suicide

English | Cymraeg

4 January 2016

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Note: This report was funded and/or written by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Introduction

Both acute and chronic alcohol consumption are associated with suicidal behaviour. Heavy (binge) drinking confers a greater risk for suicide attempts compared to light drinking, and being intoxicated is thought to increase suicide risk by up to 90 times compared to abstinence.

Intoxication may act as a behavioural disinhibitor, removing the barriers to inflict pain to oneself, increasing impulsivity and also promoting depressive thoughts and feelings of hopelessness, even amongst persons with no previous history of mental health problems. Alcohol may also serve as the suicide method itself.

Chronic alcohol use and alcohol dependency represent a clear risk factor for suicidal behaviour. Although estimates vary, studies from the USA and Germany suggest that about 40% of all patients seeking treatment for alcohol dependence report at least one suicide attempt at some point in their lives. Individuals with alcohol dependence who complete suicide are characterized by major depressive episodes, stressful life events (such as debt, isolation, loss of a job, family breakdown, bereavement and imprisonment) and previous suicidal behaviour.