Drug-related emergency department (ED) visits involving suicide attempts increased significantly between 2005 and 2011, particularly for patients ages 18–29 and ages 45–64. These results were released in two new reports by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Overall the number of individuals ≥12 years of age who visited the ED for drug-related suicide attempts increased 51% from 2005 to 2011 (151,477 to 228, 277 visits). In one report, patients ages 18–29, that number increased 58% during the same time frame (47,512 to 75,068 visits) and 104% for patients ages 45–64 (28,802 to 58,776). In 2011, about 60% of all drug-related ED visits involving suicide attempts were for individuals in these two age groups. Increases in other age groups were not statistically significant.

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The second report detailed the increasing trend of suicide attempts among middle-aged adults, with visits increasing for both genders (12,756 in 2005 vs. 25,587 in 2011 for men, 15,945 in 2005 vs. 33,188 visits in 2011 for women). The majority of these ED visits involved prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications (96%), particularly anti-anxiety and insomnia medications (48%), pain relievers (29%), and antidepressants (22%). Approximately 39% of these suicide attempts involved alcohol and 11% with illicit drugs. Visits involving alcohol and prescription drugs or OTC medications increased 122% from 2005 to 2011 as well.

SAMHSA officials emphasize that additional efforts are needed to understand risk factors for suicide in these age groups for effective and targeted preventative interventions.

For more information visit SAMHSA.org.