Current Topic Review: The Role of Comorbid Substance Abuse in Suicide Risk for Bipolar Patients

Nancy Russ


May 20, 2003

In This Article


The literature suggests a definite link between a history of alcohol or substance abuse and suicide attempts or completed suicide.[18,19,29] The presence of a cohort effect for an increased incidence of both unipolar depression and bipolar disorder in each generation since World War II[30,31,32,33,34] increases the urgency of developing early recognition and prevention strategies.[18]

Purifacion and associates[26] suggest that prevention of suicidal behavior in bipolar patients may need to be particularly focused on the treatment of drug abuse in young patients.

Researchers at the Stanley Foundation Bipolar Network[3] asserted that "to the extent that bipolar illness puts teenagers and young adults at risk for the accumulation of comorbidities, it seems appropriate to pay attention to these and other factors associated with suicide attempts so that some of these elements might be prevented or ameliorated."

Leverich and associates[3] referred to bipolar disorder as "the most complex, highly comorbid, and potentially lethal illness among the major psychiatric disorders." They concluded that without the healthcare support required to deal with the illness, its associated morbidity and suicidality will continue to have devastating effects on large numbers of individuals and their families.


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