Newswise — Injury death – including those due to intentional injury, with suicide most common, as well as unintentional injury, with motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) causing a majority – is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Postmortem examinations commonly test for blood alcohol concentration (BAC). This study utilizes postmortem data to examine the hypotheses that high, and very high, BACs are more common among MVC decedents than among suicide decedents, whereas low alcohol levels are more common among suicide decedents.

Researchers examined BACs in 224 suicide and 166 MVC decedents, ranging from 18 to 54 years of age, found in the state of New Mexico during 2012. Comparisons between the groups were made based on differing BAC levels using 0.080 g/dl categories including low (0.001-0.079 g/dl), high (0.080-8 0.159 g/dl), and very high BAC (> 0.160 g/dl). Multivariate logistic regressions compared suicides to MVC deaths that adjusted for age, sex, and race/ethnicity.

Results indicate that low BAC levels may be more prevalent among suicide compared to MVC decedents, possibly reflecting the more varied role that alcohol may play in suicides compared to MVCs. However, high, and very high, BACs were predominant for both suicides and MVCs with a positive BAC. The authors note that, although there have been robust efforts to curb alcohol-related MVC mortality, there have been no parallel efforts to curb alcohol-related suicide in the U.S., which represents a major gap in alcohol-control policy.

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