The study examined risk factors for suicide based on method of attempt among 5,000 Veterans Affairs patients with substance use disorders.
Dr. Mark Ilgen -- a psychologist at the Ann Arbor (Mich.) VA Health Care System and an assistant professor in the psychiatry department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor -- and colleagues identified 854 VA patients who died by suicide and a control group of 4,228 VA patients with substance use disorders who did not die by suicide.
"What's troubling about these findings is that some of the predictors that we typically think of as good indicators of suicide risk were not as closely related to violent suicide as non-violent suicide, although violent suicide was the most common type of suicide," Ilgen said in a statement. "It's potentially scary if there's a group of patients that is somewhat large in number that we might be missing by paying attention only to psychiatric problems."
The findings, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, highlights the importance of suicide prevention in those with substance use disorders, Ilgen said.
"It's easy to wait to think about suicide prevention until someone is depressed, but it's really a conversation worth having with someone who has a substance use disorder, since they're already at risk," Ilgen said.