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Alcohol Abuse and Eventual Suicide: A 5- to 10-Year Prospective Study of Alcohol-Abusing Suicide Attempters

Aaron T. Beck, Robert A. Steer, Larry D. Trexler

Of 161 alcohol-abusing patients who were hospitalized for suicide attempts (attempters) between 1970 and 1975 and followed until 1982, 18 eventually committed suicide. The 143 nonsuiciders were compared to the 18 with respect to 27 background characteristics including their psychiatric diagnosis, Beck Depression Inventory, Hopelessness Scale, and Suicidal Intent Scale (SIS) scores. Only the SIS precautions subscale differentiated those who did and did not eventually commit suicide: the patients who eventually killed themselves had described taking more precautions against discovery at the time of their index attempts than did those who did not commit suicide. Possible explanations for the absence of a relationship between hopelessness or depression with ultimate suicide are discussed.