Young Females Who Survived Suicide Attempts At Higher Risk For Substance Use

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A new study suggests that young girls and women may possibly develop serious substance use issues after they attempt a suicide attempt.

The study followed over 122,000 female youths for around three decades, beginning when they were just 8 years old to 19 years old. Overall, around 5,800 of them, which was a bit less than 5 percent, had attempted suicide at some point.

In a follow up, it was discovered that women with a history of attempted suicide were ‘5 times more likely to hospitalized for a substance use disorder,’ which was reported by researchers in JAMA Psychiatry. These odds also got higher as the number of suicide attempts also rose, ‘with at least three or more suicide attempts associated with 21 times the risk of substance use hospitalizations.’

Although the risk of developing substance use disorders was highest over the first five years after a suicide attempt, the women involved in the study were found to still be at risk even after 15 years or more had passed.

Moreover, the way the women attempted suicide also influenced their risk of substance use in the future. For example, jumping was associated with an almost tripled risk of substance use hospitalizations, while hanging, suffocation, or other violent means raised the risk to at least 10 times more.

Yet not all types of substances had the same risk. Women with a history of attempted suicide were over 30 times more likely to hospitalized for misusing sedatives or hypnotic drugs, and over 16 times more probable to misuse hallucinogens. In comparison, they also had 9 times more risk of hospitalization due to alcohol use disorder, and around 5 times more the risk for misuse of opioids.

One study limitation was that it wasn’t created to determine how a history of attempted suicide may directly cause future substance use problems. Notably, researchers also point out that it’s also possible that some of the very same underlying issues that contributed to the suicide attempts, like exposure to trauma, mental illness, or a family history of substance use or suicide, may have also contributed to their substance use disorders.

The researchers also explain that suicide attempts can also intensify depression or mental health conditions. As a result, some women end up becoming more vulnerable to substance use disorders later on down the road.

The study team wrote, “The findings underscore the importance of screening youths for mental health conditions and suicidality.”

They added, “Adolescents who are admitted to the hospital after a suicide attempt frequently undergo emotional and psychosocial assessments, but few receive further psychotherapy after discharge.”

These study findings show that these are exactly the things that need to change in order to hopefully make a difference in these girls’ lives.