Facts About Alcohol & Suicide

What’s the problem?

How is alcohol use related to suicidal risk?

Alcohol increases impulsivity and decreases inhibition. It increases negative self-image and decreases self-esteem; deepens depression and social isolation; and rises with the amount and length of time alcohol is consumed. Alcohol use fosters either/or and all or nothing thinking, and a lower concern for the future consequences of one’s actions. Many suicide attempts occur during binge drinking.

Among those who are alcohol dependent, 18% complete suicide. Alcohol plays a major role in suicides among elders and veterans. In suicides associated with alcohol misuse men account for 80% of the victims, women for 20%. Alcohol use is also often a factor in suicidal behavior among male teens.

What are the main risk factors for suicide linked to alcohol use?

Personal loss (divorce, separation, death) Legal/criminal justice problems
Job problems/unemployment/financial loss Early onset of drinking
History of abuse, trauma, violence, pain Family history of alcoholism
Past suicidal behavior and attempts Access to firearms

What about co-occurring disorders?

Co-occurring alcohol abuse and mental illness significantly increases risk. Those who misuse alcohol and street or prescription drugs have a 40 times greater risk of suicide. Co-occurrence opens an individual’s exposure to more suicide risk factors, weakens family supports, and lessens the likelihood of help and intervention.

What about “chronic suicidality”?

Many chronic alcohol misusers make frequent suicide threats, but often have vague plans and low intent to die. This behavior is commonly coincident with demands for immediate shelter, hospitalization, detox, rehab or other help. Such contingent threats (“If you don’t…I will…”) are often regarded as manipulation. Nonetheless most “chronic suiciders” have multiple serious risk factors and may be at increasing risk of suicide.

What are the immediate danger signs of suicide?

Immediately call 610-279-6100, 9-1-1, or 1-800- 273-TALK (National Suicide Lifeline) if you encounter:


If you or someone you know is thinking
about suicide, please call (610)279-6100