Teen Suicides involving Drugs (2008 Data)

Teen Suicides involving Drugs (2008 Data)

Teens that require treatment in the emergency department for drug-related injury are sending a signal for a cry for help. None are so urgent, however, as the signal indicated by a teen who arrives in the emergency department who has attempted suicide while using drugs.

The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) publishes a report about the emergency department treatments of adolescents and includes information about drug-related suicides. This article summarizes the findings of DAWN in 2008 regarding drug-related suicides among adolescents aged 12 to 17.

DAWN reports that 263,871 teens were treated for drug-related injury in 2008 in emergency departments across the United States. 23,,124 visits (8.8 percent) of these visits involved a suicide attempt. The visits often involved multiple drugs, with an average of 1.8 drugs per visit, including alcohol. Females made up 72.3 percent of the emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts among adolescents.

Over 10 percent of the emergency department visits involved alcohol as one of substances abused related to a suicide attempt. Pharmaceuticals were reported in 95.4 percent of suicide attempts, and illicit drugs represented 8.8 percent of drugs reported during these visits.

The drugs that were involved in the teens’ abuse before the suicide attempt varied by gender. Males were much more likely to use antipsychotic drugs than females were (14.3 percent of visits for males, versus 4.8 percent for females). Acetaminophen was much more likely to be used by females than by males (28.5 percent for females, versus 17.1 percent for males).

Most drug-related suicide attempts result in follow-up care. DAWN reports that in 2008 77.0 percent of the visits to the emergency department ended with follow-up care. 90.2 percent of visits related to use of prescription antidepressants resulted in follow-up care, and at the low end, 52.4 percent of visits involving ibuprofen received follow-up care.

Follow-up care is defined broadly. It can include inpatient admission to the hospital, transfer to a different health care facility, or even a detoxification program.

Every teen who has made a visit to an emergency department for a suicide attempt should be considered at high-risk for a second suicide attempt, according to DAWN. A second suicide attempt could be fatal. Because of the data gathered by DAWN, health care professionals and family members should take advantage of the intervention opportunity offered by a first suicide attempt that results in a hospital visit.

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