There is a palpable lack of evidence regarding the association between specific substance use disorders (SUDs) and mortality via suicide among US veterans. A recent study of US Veterans demonstrated a causative link between individuals with Substance Use Disorder and suicide, revealing (unadjusted data) that veterans with drug and alcohol use disorders are more than twice as likely to take their own life, compared to non-substance abusing veterans.

Overall, the highest suicide risks were found among individuals who misuse prescription sedative-hypnotic medication, such as Xanax, Ativan and Valium.

In addition, the adjusted outcomes show that suicide risk associated with SUDs differed significantly between men and women. Female veterans with substance use disorders were five times more likely to commit suicide than their non-substance abusing female peers. Additionally, women who specifically abused opioid drugs (oxycodone, hydrocodone, heroin…) were at the greatest risk for committing suicide when compared to men and non-substance abusing females. Nonetheless, additional co-occurring psychiatric disorders may play a role in these associations between SUDs and suicide.

The takeaway: A diagnosis of current SUD is associated with increased risk of suicide for both males and females. Mental health professionals in the VA and other military healthcare venues should conduct screenings for both SUD and depression and suicidality.