Higher Risk Of Attempted Suicide Linked With Injected Methamphetamine

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Methamphetamine, commonly called meth/crystal/ice/shabu, is one of the psychoactive drugs that are used illegally, although its usage has been approved by FDA to treat exogenous obesity and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It can cause increased alertness, improved self-esteem, and even euphoria. However, using this drug can lead to addiction and eventually withdrawal symptoms. Meth has already been tied up with several physical and mental effects which are harmful to the body.

Nonetheless, not much is known yet regarding the association between injected meth and suicidal tendency or behavior. Researchers from the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the University of British Columbia discovered that users of injected meth had an 80% increased risk of attempted suicide, compared with those users of other injected substances.

More studies are needed to determine the causal pathway of injecting meth and suicidal behavior. However, based from the population studied, the researchers inferred that it is most likely a combination of mechanisms in the neurobiological, social, and structural aspects that can explain this pathway. The findings can be found in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence, December issue.

According to the lead author Brandon Marshall, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the Mailman School of Public Health and research coordinator for the Urban Health Research Initiative in British Columbia, there is a probability that meth users are more prone to isolation and poorer social support networks than users using other injected drugs. He further emphasized that suicide prevention efforts should be a fundamental element in programs involving substance abuse treatments. He added that enhanced suicide risk assessment, as well as other mental health support services, can be beneficial to those who use injected meth but are not undergoing treatment.

Furthermore, the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS’ Urban Health Research Initiative currently concentrates on how substance use, infectious diseases and urban environment affect the health of urban residents. The Vancouver Injection Drug users Study is a component of this program. In addition, illegal drug use has been common in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside; moreover, lethality of drug overdoses and drug-associated violence are evident. In 1997, there had been an outbreak of HIV infection in that area, considered as one of the most rapid spread of HIV epidemics globally in a developed country.

The participation for this 7-year research concluded in May 2008. This was done by word of mouth, street outreach and referrals. Moreover, an interviewer-administered questionnaire was also involved which included socio-demographic characteristics, drug use, treatment consumption, and HIV risk behaviors. The team assessed 1, 873 participants; 31 was the median age. Of the participants, 36.2% were women, while 32.1% were of Aboriginal origin. In general, those who were evaluated to have attempted suicide are 8% of the study population.

Dr. Marshall articulated that this study is among North America’s biggest cohorts of injected drug users; also, this is one of the first longitudinal researches to explore suicidal behavior of injected drug users. Most of the 5, 000 user population are residing in a small neighborhood, which encouraged this kind of study to be convenient. He elaborated that this investigation is a primary access point of health care for these people, and this can be very useful having an increased follow-up rate. Additionally, the study team found that infrequent meth injection could be a predictor of suicidal behavior, whereas frequent injected meth use was linked to higher risk of suicide attempts.

Indeed, this research has been a breakthrough for determining the actual consequences of injected methamphetamine in the behavior, specifically suicidal tendency, of a user. This can lay the foundations for further studies which can contribute in lowering the detriments brought about by abuse of this drug.




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