Despite its salience as a cause of death amongst illicit drug users, suicide has been a relatively neglected area of research in the drug and alcohol field. This is curious because, as noted previously, it has long been known that there are extremely high levels of depressive disorders amongst this population (Darke & Ross, 2001; Degenhardt et al., 2001; Dinwiddie et al., 1997; Teesson et al., 2005), and suicide is a leading cause of death amongst illicit drug users. Despite its status as a “hidden issue” of the illicit drug field, however, suicide presents a major clinical challenge to those treating drug-dependent users, and needs to be recognised as such. The current chapter examines rates of suicide, methods employed, and risk factors amongst the general population and illicit drug users. Both completed and attempted suicide are examined, representing two aspects of a single phenomenon.
Suicide amongst the general population
Rates of completed suicide in the general population vary greatly from country to country. For example, rates higher than 0.3 per thousand are reported in Finland, Hungary, and Sri Lanka compared to rates of approximately 0.1 per thousand in the US, UK, and Australia (Diekstra & Gulbinat, 1993; Hassan, 1995; Lynskey et al., 2000).