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Suicide Attempts and Alcohol Consumption in an Emergency Room Sample

Guilherme Borges, Haydee Rosovsky

Objective: The aim of this study was to obtain an epidemiologic measure of association between suicide attempts and alcohol consumption in eight emergency room (ER) hospitals. Method: All patients were interviewed and breath tested for alcohol consumption. The data were analyzed using the case-control methodology. Cases were patients (N = 40; 21 male) admitted to ER because of a suicide attempt. The control group comprised patients (N = 372) admitted to ER because of accidents that are less frequently reported as alcohol related (i.e., workplace accidents, animal bites, and recreational accidents, except drowning). Results: The proportion of suicide attempts under the effects of alcohol was significantly higher than that of the control group. The bivariate odds ratios (and 95% confidence intervals) for self-report of alcohol consumption in the 6 hours prior to the suicide attempt were: abstainers (baseline); 0.001-100 g of alcohol = 2.01 (0.44,7.85); >100 g = 31.11 (10.13, 98.61). For habitual alcohol consumption: abstainers (baseline); 0.001-100 g of alcohol = 0.67 (0.25, 1.77); >100 g = 1.10 (0.44, 2.75). For Alco-Sensor: ≤ 9 mg of alcohol/100 ml of blood (baseline); 10-99 mg/100 ml = 8.21 (2.81, 23.73); ≥ 100 mg/100 ml = 2.97 (0.42, 15.95). Multiple logistic models did not change these findings. Conclusions: Alcohol consumption prior to the suicide attempt is a more important risk factor than the habitual alcohol consumption pattern. New research should emphasize life events and psychiatric variables and find explanations for differences between the self-reported and the Alco-Sensor estimates. (J. Stud. Alcohol 57: 543-548, 1996)