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Rise in Drug-Related Suicide Attempts by Young Men Alarms Experts

FRIDAY, June 17 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts by young adult males rose 55 percent between 2005 and 2009, a government report says.

"The misuse of prescription drugs is clearly helping to fuel the problem," said Pamela S. Hyde, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which published the report.

In 2009, men aged 21 to 34 made more than 29,000 emergency room visits for medication-related suicide attempts compared to just over 19,000 visits in 2005, SAMHSA noted. Drug-related suicide attempts by males of all ages accounted for almost 78,000 emergency department visits nationwide in 2009.

"While we have learned much about how to prevent suicide, it continues to be a leading cause of death among people who abuse alcohol and drugs," Hyde said in an agency news release.

ER visits for drug-related suicide attempts involving antidepressants among young adult males in those four years jumped 155 percent, and cases involving anti-anxiety and insomnia medications rose 93 percent.

Emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts involving narcotic pain relievers nearly doubled among men aged 35 to 49, and almost tripled among men aged 50 and older.

The findings are based on data from the 2005-09 Drug Abuse Warning Network reports.

"Greater awareness about the warning signs and risk factors for suicide, including abuse of alcohol and drugs, can help people take action and save lives," Hyde said.

According to her agency, warning signs that someone might be at increased risk for suicide include the following:

  • Mentioning feeling hopeless or having no purpose in life
  • Anxious or reckless behavior
  • Greater alcohol or drug use
  • Withdrawal or feelings of isolation
  • Noticeable mood swings

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) provides round-the-clock, immediate assistance anywhere in the United States.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about suicide.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, news release, June 17, 2011

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