img source: news.brown.edu
The topic of suicide is a very sensitive. The notion of suicide being a direct link to substance-abuse is, in fact, extremely over-simplified. In an attempt to better understand the factors that may increase suicide risk, researchers studied the use of two drugs specifically, cocaine and alcohol, both independently and combined together.
From a study in the journal Crisis, when used independently, alcohol had no association with increased suicide. In addition, cocaine provided only borderline suspicions. Both findings were unexpected.
However, the combination of both alcohol and cocaine misuse did provide an increase in suicide attempts and suggests that the use of these two drugs should trigger a red flag.
The research was headed by the assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior in the Alpert Medical School (Brown University), Sarah Arias. Her team of researchers examined over 800 men and women who were present in at least one of eight emergency departments (ED) around the country between the year 2010 and 2012.
These participants were included in a safety assessment and follow-up survey conducted by the University of Mass. Medical School.
Although participants admitted to abusing various substances, which included marijuana, prescription painkillers, tranquilizers, and stimulants, the study primarily focused on alcohol and cocaine use. In the study, 298 people misused alcohol, 72 misused cocaine, and 41 admitted to using both. When finalizing the results of each substance category, those who used both cocaine and alcohol together experienced a significant increase in suicide attempts. By a factor of 2.4 times greater!
“These disparate findings emphasize the complex interaction of sex, substance use, and suicide attempts,” Arias and her co-authors wrote.
Side Note: Cocaine and alcohol, when used together, actually produce a byproduct called cocaethylene. This byproduct is even considered a recreational drug by itself, with stimulant, euphoric, anorectic, sympathomimetic, and local anesthetic properties. Cocaethylene is structurally similar to cocaine, being the ethyl ester of benzoylecgonine. (Benzoylecgonine is the metabolite of cocaine).