The serious mental and physical health issues of injecting meth are generally well known, but there has however been very little research regarding injecting meth and suicidal behavior. In a 7 year study, researchers found out that those drug users who were injecting meth had an 80 per cent higher risk of attempted suicide compared to drug users that injected other substances.
Even though causal pathway between suicidal behavior and injecting meth needs more investigating, the researchers suggest that it most likely involves a mix of social, neurobiological and structural mechanisms, at least from the population observed.
When compared to other drug users that injected, it’s possible that meth users tend to be more isolated and have poorer socially supportive systems. The higher rate of attempted suicide seen in this research indicates that suicide prevention efforts need to be an important part of drug abuse treatment programs. Furthermore, people injecting meth but aren’t in a treatment program would probably benefit from better suicide risk assessment as well as other mental health assistance in healthcare settings.
Taking part in the 7 year study was by word of mouth, referrals and street outreach, and included an interviewer given list of questions on socio demographic characteristics, HIV risk behaviors, drug use and treatment utilization. The study evaluated 1,873 individuals whose average age was 31, and 36.2 per cent of them were female. In total, 8 per cent of study participants recorded a suicide attempt.
This was one of North America’s largest studies of drug users that inject, and the study is one of the first longitudinal studies to look at attempts of suicide by drug users that inject. The majority of the 5,000 users are concentrated within a small neighborhood, which makes it a logical environment to do this kind of study.
The researchers also found out that injecting meth infrequently was a predictor for attempted suicide, while injecting meth frequently was linked to the greatest risk of attempted suicide.
December 22, 2011 — The dire physical and mental health effects of injecting methamphetamine are well known, but there’s been little research about suicidal behavior and injecting meth. In a recent study, researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the University of British Columbia found that drug users who inject methamphetamine had an 80% greater risk of attempting suicide than drug users who inject other substances.
Although the causal pathway between injecting methamphetamine and suicidal behavior requires further investigation, study authors suggest that it likely involves a combination of neurobiological, social, and structural mechanisms, at least in the population studied.
The study results are published in the December issue of Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
“Compared to other injection drug users, it is possible that methamphetamine users are more isolated and have poorer social support systems,” said lead author Brandon Marshall, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health and research coordinator for the Urban Health Research Initiative in British Colombia. “The high rate of attempted suicide observed in this study suggests that suicide prevention efforts should be an integral part of substance abuse treatment programs,” said Dr. Marshall. “In addition, people who inject methamphetamine but are not in treatment would likely benefit from improved suicide risk assessment and other mental health support services within health care settings.”
The Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study is part of the ongoing British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS’ Urban Health Research Initiative, which focuses on the effects of substance use, infectious diseases, and the urban environment on the health of urban populations. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is known as a center for illicit drug use, and fatalities from drug overdoses and drug-related violence are common. A large outbreak of HIV infection reported there in 1997 was among the fastest spreading HIV epidemics in the developed world.
Participation in the seven-year study, which ended in May 2008, was through word of mouth, street outreach, and referrals and included an interviewer-administered questionnaire on sociodemographic characteristics, drug use, treatment utilization, and HIV risk behaviors. The researchers evaluated 1,873 participants whose median age was 31, while 36.2% of participants were female, and 32.1% were of Aboriginal ancestry. In total, 8% percent of study participants reported a suicide attempt.
“This is one of North America’s largest cohorts of injection drug users, and the research is among the first longitudinal studies to examine attempts of suicide by injection drug users,” said Dr. Marshall. “Most of these 5,000 users are concentrated in a very small neighborhood, making it a logical environment for this type of study. Because our study is one of the main points of access to health care for this population, this is a very well utilized study with a high rate of follow-up.”
Dr. Marshall and colleagues also discovered that infrequent methamphetamine injection was a predictor of attempting suicide, while frequent methamphetamine injection was associated with the greatest risk of attempting suicide.
The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.