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Heavier drinking raises odds of using firearm to die by suicide

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Wednesday, March 29, 2023 - 3:33pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 9, 2023 - 2:00pm
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The chief means of suicide in the U.S. is firearms, and drinking increases the likelihood of gun-related suicides. But does the amount a person drinks affect those odds?

A cross-sectional study of more than 58,000 people who died from suicide published in the journal JAMA Network Open suggests it does. The data came from the U.S. National Violent Death Reporting System.

For men who die by suicide, the odds of a gun being used are about 50%. As blood alcohol concentration increases, those odds rise to 75%.

For women, alcohol increases the odds from 30%-55%.

The pattern holds until blood alcohol nears alcohol poisoning levels, then drops off, possibly due to loss of coordination.

The study compared the likelihood of using a firearm as a method of suicide compared to other means among people 18 or older. Alcohol consumption figures were based on postmortem toxicology reports. Researchers controlled for age, marital status, educational level, and race and ethnicity.

Arizona’s rates of both suicide and alcohol consumption fall slightly below the national average, but firearm suicides exceed the national average.

More than 47,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide in 2021. The firearm-involved suicide rate that year was the highest it had been since 1990.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, there is help. Contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988 (en Español, llame al 988, prensa 2; for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, dial 711 then 988). You may also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Science