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Methamphetamine Users More Likely to Attempt Suicide than Other Drug Users

Prescription Drug Abuse
Methamphetamine Users More Likely to Attempt Suicide than Other Drug Users

Methamphetamine Users More Likely to Attempt Suicide than Other Drug Users

The negative effects associated with methamphetamine use are well-documented. Users often experience problems related to the neurotoxicity of methamphetamine, and an increased risk for heart disease, anxiety and violent behaviors. The drug is also associated with high levels of depression and suicide.

A study conducted by researchers at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and researchers at the University of British Columbia found that for those who use methamphetamine, the risk of attempting suicide is significantly higher than for users of other types of injected drugs.

The researchers discovered that methamphetamine users are 80 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those who inject other substances. The results appear in the December edition of the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The authors of the study believe that the findings provide vital information for understanding the relationship between methamphetamine use and suicidal behaviors. While the causal pathway between the two behaviors will require additional research, the researchers say that there is likely a mix of social, neurobiological and structural mechanisms involved.

Lead author of the study, Brandon Marshall, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University. Marshall explains that one aspect that may contribute to the finding is that methamphetamine users tend to be more isolated than other types of drug users. They may not have a social support system that may guard against suicidal behaviors.

Marshall also says that the results indicate that there is a need for suicide prevention to be a key component in substance abuse treatment, especially when treating for methamphetamine addiction. There is also a need for suicide risk assessment in physicians’ offices in order to possibly treat those who use methamphetamine but are not currently in treatment.

The researchers gathered information for the study by utilizing data from the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study, a seven-year study that involved 1,873 participants. The study is one of the first longitudinal research projects that includes information about suicide attempts among injection drug users.

The researchers also found that the use of methamphetamine on an infrequent basis serves as a predictor of attempting suicide. However, frequent use of methamphetamine injection has the strongest connection with attempting suicide.

The findings of the study highlight the need for increased suicide prevention education for substance abuse treatment programs, as well as including warnings about the risk of suicidal behavior when providing drug prevention education.

The research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and by the National Institutes of Health.


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