Newswise — Alcohol use can be found in suicide deaths and unintentional deaths due to injuries such as those from motor vehicle collisions (MVCs). The authors of this study argue that it is important to distinguish between the roles that alcohol may play in the two different types of deaths. Consequently, they compared postmortem toxicology results for alcohol and other drugs, alone and in combination, in suicide and MVC deaths.

The researchers analyzed data on 346 individuals (265 men, 81 women) living in New Mexico, ages 18 to 54, who died in 2012 by suicide (n=185) or MVC (n=161). Toxicology results were used to code the presence of alcohol and/or other drugs such as cocaine, opiates (oxycodone, heroin, etc.), amphetamines, or methamphetamine.

Results showed that the co-presence of alcohol and one or more drugs of abuse – particularly cocaine – appeared to be more likely in suicide deaths than MVC deaths. The authors suggest that individuals vulnerable to suicide may use alcohol to cope with depressive symptoms associated with recurring use of cocaine and/or to temper discomfort following cocaine use. They further suggest that these results can inform the design of prevention efforts to target specific kinds of substance use and types of injury.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research