More Middle-Aged Adults Hospitalized for Drug-Related Suicide Attempts

Aimee Simone, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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In this age group, such hospitalizations surged 104% between 2005 and 2011.

The number of emergency department visits resulting from drug-related suicide attempts more than doubled between 2005 and 2011, according to 2 reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The reports, released on August 7, 2014, found such visits have especially increased among middle-aged adults.

The combined findings of the studies were based on data from SAMHSA’s 2005-2011 Drug Abuse Warning Network reports.

Among patients aged 12 years and older, emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts increased 51% in that 6-year period, from 151,477 visits in 2005 to 228,277 visits in 2011. Among patients aged 18 to 29 years, such visits increased by 58%, from 47,512 in 2005 to 75,068 in 2011.

Surprisingly, the greatest increase in emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts was observed among patients aged 45 to 64 years. In this age group, visits surged 104%, from 28,802 in 2005 to 58,775 in 2011. In addition, patients aged 45 to 64 accounted for 26% of all emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts in 2011, up from 19% in 2005.

According to the second report, which analyzed visits among patients aged 45 to 64, 96% of those visits in 2011 involved prescription and OTC medications, with anti-anxiety and insomnia medications involved in 48%, pain relievers in 29%, and antidepressants in 22%. The percentage of visits that involved narcotic pain relievers increased 148% from 2005 to 2011, while those involving benzodiazepines increased 120% in the same period.

The data also indicated an increase in emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts involving alcohol. Overall, visits involving alcohol doubled from 10,813 in 2005 to 22,763 in 2011, and those involving alcohol combined with prescription and OTC medications significantly increased by 122%. Visits involving illicit drugs, however, did not significantly increase over the study period, and such drugs were rarely reported as the only type of drug used.

The report also found 22% of patients had no evidence of follow-up care in 2011; however, this percentage was not statistically different from 2005.

Although suicide attempts increased the most among middle-aged adults, most suicide prevention programs and initiatives are aimed to help teenagers, young adults, and the elderly, the report noted.

“This increase in suicide attempts (and suicide death) among middle-aged adults underscores the importance of understanding risk factors for suicide in this age group to ensure that targeted preventive interventions are implemented,” the authors of the study wrote.

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