Despite the association of alcohol use with recurrent suicidal acts, individuals attempting suicide after drinking alcohol face barriers accessing crisis care following emergency assessment, demonstrated by higher odds of inpatient admission for those whose suicide attempt did not feature alcohol. This disparity may be due to suicidality dissipating more rapidly after a suicide attempt involving alcohol. We investigated the effect of acute alcohol use and ongoing suicidality on onward care decisions after emergency assessment.
We analysed electronic health records of 650 suicidal adults detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act (1983, amended 2007) for up to 36 h at a London psychiatric emergency care centre. We used logistic regression to estimate the association of acute alcohol use and ongoing suicidality (including their interaction) with admission to psychiatric hospital.
Fifteen percent of previously intoxicated detainees expressed suicidal intent at detention end, compared to 24% of detainees who had not used alcohol prior to detention. Compared to those who were not previously intoxicated and not suicidal at detention end, acute alcohol use was associated with reduced odds of admission amongst those no longer suicidal (AOR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2, 0.6). Where suicidality persisted, odds of admission rose; however, the magnitude of increase when in combination with prior alcohol use (AOR 3.6, 95% CI 1.9, 7.1) was under half that of when alcohol was not involved (AOR 8.2, 95% CI 3.5, 19.1).
Discussion and Conclusions
Acute alcohol use is associated with transient suicidality, but this only partially accounts for disparities in care following suicide attempts.