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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.
To examine the relationship between substance misuse and subsequent
Linkage of coroners' reports to primary care records for 403 suicides
occurring over 2 years.
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.
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
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