Completed suicide among methamphetamine users: A national study

May 2018
Darke S, Kaye S, Duflou J, Lappin J. (2018). Completed Suicide Among Methamphetamine Users: A National Study. Suicide Life Threat Behaviour. doi: 10.1111/sltb.12442

The authors previously published a study showing that the number of methamphetamine-related deaths in Australia doubled between 2009 and 2015 and violent suicide was identified as a prominent cause of these deaths.

In this study, all Australian cases of methamphetamine-related suicide (2009–2015) were retrieved from the National Coronial Information System and examined to determine crude mortality rates, characteristics and circumstances of death, and blood toxicology. There were 300 cases, accounting for just under a fifth (18.2%) of all methamphetamine-related deaths, and 1.6% of all completed suicides.

The mean age was 33.1 years and 77.0% were male. The crude mortality rate was 1.9 per million with males having a significantly higher rate than females (2.9 vs. 0.9 per million). A quarter were known to have previous suicide attempts, and a history of psychosis was noted in 12.3%. In 40.7% of cases, witnesses described the decedent as having been agitated and/or aggressive immediately prior to the incident.

The vast majority (85.3%) used violent methods. Hanging (70.3%) was overwhelmingly the most frequent method among both males (70.1%) and females (71.0%). The high rates of hanging among females was particularly notable as in the general population completed suicide among females predominantly involves poisoning.

Prescription medications were frequently present: hypnosedatives (23.6%), antidepressants (19.5%), and antipsychotics (8.4%). Self-poisoning cases were significantly more likely to have antidepressants (odds ratio: 4.2) and opioids (4.9) present, but less likely to have cannabis (0.3).

Methamphetamine-related suicide makes a large contribution to methamphetamine-related death and represents a substantial clinical and public health problem.