American Indians are at much greater risk of suicide after acute alcohol intoxication, according to a study led by researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
The study examined the prevalence and social demographic correlates of suicide involving acute alcohol intoxication among United States ethnic minorities. Results will be published in the May 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.
"Some reviews suggest that people with alcohol use disorders are nine times more likely to die by suicide than the general population," said Raul Caetano, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., the study's corresponding author and regional dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health Dallas Regional Campus, part of UTHealth. "Our paper looks at the issue more specifically, examining suicide and acute intoxication among U.S. ethnic minorities. It is not the first study to do so, but few among them have used such large data set as the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS)."
Suicide is the 10th leading overall cause of death in the United States in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prior research has also shown that alcohol use disorders confer increased risk for suicide.
"Other studies have found that large numbers of people who have recently committed suicide, or attempted to commit suicide, have alcohol in their blood," added Sarah Zemore, Ph.D., a scientist at the Alcohol Research Group and an associate adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley. "There is also reason to believe that binging on alcohol is a risk for suicide attempt regardless of whether the person is dependent on alcohol. Yet research has not fully answered the question of why alcohol misuse increases the likelihood of a suicide attempt, whether due to major depression, increases in impulsivity or poorer life conditions common among alcohol-dependent people."
Caetano and his colleagues used data derived from the 2003-2009 NVDRS, analyzing sociodemographic and toxicological information for 59,384 suicide decedents from 16 states. Acute alcohol intoxication at the time of death was defined as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) equal to or greater than 0.08.
"We showed considerable differences across ethnic groups in the association between alcohol intoxication and suicide and types of suicide," said Caetano, professor of epidemiology at the UT School of Public Health. "Although alcohol intoxication is important for all groups, American Indians are much more at risk than other groups."