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Topics Alcohol and Drug Abuse Alcohol and adolescent suicide

Alcohol and adolescent suicide

Sher L, Zalsman G. Alcohol and adolescent suicide. Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2005 Jul-Sep;17(3):197-203.

Adolescent suicide is a major public health problem.

In this review, the authors discuss different aspects of the relation between alcohol abuse and suicidal behavior in adolescents, including epidemiology, role of family history, comorbidity, gender differences, neurobiology, treatment, and prevention.

In the general population, about 2,000 adolescents in the United States die by suicide each year. Suicide continually ranks as the second or third leading cause of death of persons between the ages of 15 and 34 years old. The suicide rate in young people has more than doubled during the period from 1956 to 1993. This increasing suicide rate has been blamed on the increase of adolescent alcohol abuse. Availability of alcohol and guns at home may contribute to suicide risk in adolescents.

Comorbid psychopathology, which is common among adolescent alcohol abusers, substantially increases risk for suicide completions and attempts. Depressed adolescents may use alcohol to self-medicate depressive symptoms. Alcohol abuse and suicidal behavior in adolescents and in adults has been found to have biochemical, genetic, and psychological correlates.

Ideally, treatment of adolescents who receive a diagnosis of an alcohol use disorder and co- occurring suicidality should follow an integrated protocol that addresses both conditions.

Future studies of psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of suicidality in adolescents with alcohol and/or substance abuse are merited.

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