Title

From impulse to action among military personnel hospitalized for suicide risk: Alcohol consumption and the reported transition from suicidal thought to behavior

Abstract

Objective: Alcohol use is associated with unplanned or impulsive suicide attempts. Although unplanned suicide attempts assume a rapid transition for suicidal impulse to action, many studies do not quantify the time elapsed from suicidal impulse to action. The current study was designed to clarify how alcohol use facilitates the transition from suicidal impulse to action among U.S. Army personnel. We hypothesized that alcohol consumption during the 24 h preceding a suicide attempt would be associated with significantly faster transition from suicidal impulse to action but would be unrelated to medical lethality. Method: A total of 119 active duty U.S. Army Soldiers who made a total of 175 suicide attempts during military service, 121 of which occurred during the preceding year, completed clinician-administered structured interviews focused on psychiatric diagnosis and the contextual characteristics of their suicide attempts. Results: Alcohol use during the 24 h prior to a suicide attempt was associated with significantly faster transition from suicidal impulse to action. Among suicide attempts in the past year, lethality significantly increased as the length of time since the last alcoholic drink increased. Drug use during the 24 h prior to a suicide attempt was unrelated to speed of transition or attempt lethality. Conclusions: Soldiers acted upon their suicidal impulses more quickly when they had been drinking on the day of their suicide attempts. This rapid transition may contribute to the selection of less lethal suicide methods during periods of active drinking as compared to methods selected after the discontinuation of alcohol consumption.

Publication Title

General Hospital Psychiatry

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