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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Veterans Commit Violent Suicide Before Overdose

There are many veterans who served in the Middle East conflicts that suffer from drug and alcohol addiction. High stress job environments are often accompanied by drugs and alcohol in order to cope. Some soldiers who used substances to cope during war time often leave the battlefields with addictions. Post Traumatic Stress is a major contributing factor in the progression of an addiction, in most cases counseling and treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is inadequate, leaving soldiers to find their help from the wind. There are Veterans who can't take the PTSD or the addiction, or both, anymore; they decide that they are out of options, taking their own life. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Veterans suffering from addiction who choose to take their lives are more likely to use a gun than use overdose as the means of suicide, according to a new study. More than 5,000 Veterans Affairs (VA) patients with substance use disorders were studied; researchers found that 70% of those who died by suicide used violent means even if they had access to drugs that could be lethal. The new study was in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

"What's troubling about these findings is that some of the predictors that we typically think of as good indicators of suicide risk were not as closely related to violent suicide as nonviolent suicide, although violent suicide was the most common type of suicide," said lead researcher Dr. Mark Ilgen, a psychologist at the Ann Arbor VA Health Care System and an assistant professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "It's potentially scary if there's a group of patients that is somewhat large in number that we might be missing by paying attention only to psychiatric problems." The report showed that people who committed suicide by overdose suffered from serious mental disorders as well - depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

Ilgen claimed that addiction and suicide are probably tied together in a number of ways:

  • First, people who develop a drug or alcohol addiction may already be at higher risk for suicide.
  • Second, having a substance use disorder can cause problems at work and in relationships, which may increase suicide risk.
  • Third, being under the influence of alcohol or drug can make someone more likely to engage in impulsive behaviors -- such as a suicide attempt.
"Care providers should be aware of the high risk of suicide in this group and do an initial screening for current suicidal thoughts and plans," said Ilgen. "It's easy to wait to think about suicide prevention until someone is depressed, but it's really a conversation worth having with someone who has a substance use disorder, since they're already at risk."

Source: Medical News Today and the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

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