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Drugs and Suicide: a Sad Outcome

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A deadly combination of opiates and benzodiazepine were found in the system of a Florida teen who killed himself in November while a live online audience watched via webcam. The Associated Press reported 19-year-old Abraham Biggs blogged about plans to kill himself. The Broward County medical examiner’s office said some of the people watching through a body building website egged him on while others tried to talk him out of it. A few people reportedly discussed whether Biggs took enough to succeed. The teen’s family said he suffered from bipolar disorder or manic depression.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists suicide as the fourth leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 64. Often, those deaths involve alcohol or drugs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 2007 toxicology tests reveal alcohol in more than one third of the suicide victims. Opiates, including prescription painkillers and heroin, were found in one of six suicide victims, the agency said. There is often a link with suicide between substance abuse and mental illness. Teens are especially at risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts when they use and abuse drugs and alcohol. Teens who use drugs to self medicate often find that drugs seem to exacerbate the situation.

TOXICOLOGY TESTS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

In a 2006 report, the CDC stressed the need for medical professionals to pay attention to toxicology reports when ruling deaths as suicides. The CDC said the reports might help identify patterns of substance use that can help in suicide interventions. The CDC analyzed toxicology findings from suicides in 13 states that reported to the National Violent Death Reporting System in 2004. Of the victims tested, 33.3% had alcohol in their system and 16.4% tested positive for opiates. The report states that “The finding that opiates were nearly five times more prevalent among poisoning suicide victims is consistent with evidence that prescription opioid analgesics cause more intentional overdose deaths than illegal, non-opioid drugs.”

DRUGS’ EFFECT ON THE BRAIN/SUICIDE RISK FACTORS

Many people who choose to end their lives turn to prescription drugs because they are quick and often readily available. There’s no doubt that drug use clouds judgment and lowers inhibitions. It alters the brain’s delicate chemical balance and can increase feelings of depression and sadness. Suicide and drug use are both major public health problems. Fortunately, both are preventable. Risk factors for suicide include mental health issues, drug and alcohol use, depression and family history of suicide or depression. If you are having suicidal thoughts and need help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK.

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