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Youth, Drugs and Suicide are Related in Emergency Visits


The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released a new set of studies on the relationship between adolescents, drug abuse and suicide attempts resulting in emergency department (ED) visits. “Nearly `1 in 10 drug-related hospital emergency department visits made by adolescents involved suicide attempts.” With prescription drug abuse rising 400% (according to a White House study release ) people should be concerned about how children may be using drugs.

Suicide is a leading cause of death with 34,598 deaths in the United States in 2007 which is almost double the national homicide rate (18, 361). Researchers have known that suicides in adolescents have been on the rise and have studied causal relationships, corollary relationships, treatments, medications, therapies and the like to prevent suicide’s shocking climb. Some critics have said that all the attention about suicide is what is leading to more teens considering suicide as a possible problem solver. However, no study has shown a correlation between greater awareness and the increase.

The studies (http:www.samhsa.gov) show that for the adolescent age group, suicide attempts related to drug abuse is double the rate of those over the age of 25. The majority of these suicide attempts are from females, adolescent females is (72.3%) , 18-25 is 57.6%, over 25 is 57.7%. This shows that females are at a greater risk for suicide attempts when they abuse drugs.

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The types of drugs abused also leads to the type of follow-up care that is given. For instance, if an anti-depressant is used for a suicide attempt, a referral is made. If ibuprofen is used, a referral is less likely. Also, age plays a part as well. For instance, if alcohol is used in the age group 25 and older, referrals are not made nearly as often as when used by adolescents. This leads one to wonder why is the majority of referrals being concentrated on those who presumably have had mental health management (as evidenced by their prescription) and less on those who have not had prior mental health help. While all should receive follow-up care, shouldn’t the focus be on those who have not yet received help?

It’s interesting to note that in addition to the relationships discussed above, the type of drug being abused tends to differ in females by age groups. Adolescent females used acetaminophen products most often and adult women used anti-anxiety drugs. Adolescent males tended to use anti psychotic drugs more often than their female counterparts (14.3% to 4.3%).

All of these results have clinical applications. One such application is recognizing that drug abuse in a health condition that needs to be addressed as well as the mental health issues and be treated as co-occurring. For more information, please visit SAMHSA website. There are many programs offered there to help teens, young adults and many others who may be having suicidal thoughts.

Also, there is a toll-free Lifeline for crises: (800) 273-TALK (800-273-8255). The calls are confidential and free from most payphones.



Commenting on the youth, suicide rate and meds. Has no one considered that the excessive attention spent on pain management and easilly acquired pain meds an implication in access to meds by youths, thus resulting in increased suicide attempts. Many people use ER to get immediate atttention (meds) for pain and an RX. They use ER as sole source of meds and will not or do not follow or have a primary care physician. Most have no insurance or have mediCal/medicaid (M/M). Therefore society provides this service through M/M and/or at no cost because we cannot refuse them care or medicating ,as pain is now one of the vital signs. A huge amount of these people are repeated ER patients wanting to be treated, streeted and provided an RX. Sounds like we have created our own problem and no way to control it; only making it easier on pt's to abuse meds and the system. How can we help them (pt's with addictions and increasing suicide attempts) when we our society has allowed this problem to go on and grow.