Co-occurring disorders increase risk of suicide attempt by adolescents

Research has shown that adolescents with substance use disorders are most likely to attempt suicide when they also have a co-occurring mood disorder. NIDA-funded scientists at the University of Pittsburgh have extended this research and found that generally, both male and female substance abusers who attempt suicide begin taking drugs at an early age and have more symptoms of psychiatric and substance use disorders than adolescents who do not attempt suicide.

Dr. Thomas Kelly and colleagues collected data from 188 females and 315 males, aged 12 to 19 years, who were diagnosed with an alcohol or substance use disorder and who participated in studies between 1991 and 2000 at the Pittsburgh Adolescent Alcohol Research Center. The adolescents completed standardized assessments of substanceand nonsubstance-related psychiatric disorders. Both the adolescents and their parents answered standardized questions about age of onset for all diagnosed psychiatric disorders. Adolescents who attempted suicide and their parents estimated the age(s) at which the adolescent attempted suicide.

Overall, 29 males and 56 females made one or more suicide attempts during their lifetimes. Males with hallucinogen use disorders, inhalant use disorders, sedative-hypnotic use disorders, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were more likely to have attempted suicide than males who were not diagnosed with these disorders. Male suicide attempters had more symptoms of mood, alcohol, and disruptive behavior disorders compared with male nonattempters. There existed an earlier age of onset for alcohol use disorders and conduct disorders among male suicide attempters compared with the age of onset among males with these disorders who did not attempt suicide.

Females with conduct disorders and substance use disorders (other than cannabis use disorders) were at higher risk for attempting suicide than females who were not diagnosed with conduct disorders or noncannabis subst

Contact: Blair Gately
NIH/National Institute on Drug Abuse

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