Drug-related suicide attempts rise sharply

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There has been a significant rise in drug-related suicide attempts in the past few years, with the most alarming increase among middle-aged people, two new reports find.

Hospital emergency department visits involving drug-related suicide attempts in people ages 45 to 64 doubled between 2005 and 2011 -- rising from 28,802 cases in 2005 to 58,775 in 2011.

Overall, there was a 51 percent increase in suicide-related visits to emergency departments among people age 12 and older -- from 151,477 visits in 2005 to 228,277 visits in 2011, according to the reports by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

"Suicide continues to take lives without regard to age, income, education, social standing, race, or gender," SAMHSA administrator Pamela S. Hyde, said in a statement. "It is a growing risk in far too many segments of our society."

One report examined emergency room visits by age and found that the overall increase stemmed mostly from that middle aged group and young adults, ages 18 to 29. Visits by people ages 18 to 29 jumped 58 percent -- from 47,312 in 2005 to 75,068 in 2011. These two age groups constituted about 60 percent of all drug-related emergency department visits due to suicide attempts in 2011, the investigators found.

In the other report, the researchers analyzed the 45 to 64 age group, where the increase was the most significant. The report found that, in 2011, the majority of these visits involved the non-medical use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter-medications such as anti-anxiety and insomnia medications (48 percent), pain relievers (29 percent), and antidepressants (22 percent).

Thirty-nine percent of these drug-related suicide attempts in 2011 involved the use of alcohol, and 11 percent of them involved the use of illegal drugs.

"We must all do everything we can to combat this preventable and needless loss of life and the devastation it [suicide] inflicts upon friends, families, and communities across our nation," Hyde said.