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Relationship between alcohol use disorders and suicidality in a psychiatric population: In-patient prevalence study

  • Annie McCloud (a1), Ben Barnaby (a2), Nicola Omu (a3), Colin Drummond (a2) and Andy Aboud (a3)...

Abstract

Background

Alcohol misuse is a risk factor in suicide and parasuicide.

Aims

To measure the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in a cohort of psychiatric admissions using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), and the relationship between the AUDIT score and suicidality.

Method

Consecutive psychiatric admissions were interviewed with a lifestyle survey that included the AUDIT, and admission case notes were reviewed.

Results

Out of 200 subjects, 48.5% scored 8 or more (indicating hazardous or harmful alcohol use) and 22.5% scored 16 or more (indicating significant alcohol dependence) on the AUDIT. There were no significant gender differences. Alcohol misuse was strongly associated with suicidality.

Conclusions

The AUDIT questionnaire should be incorporated into psychiatric assessments when risk of self-harm is being evaluated. Further research is warranted to examine the impact of interventions for alcohol use disorders in psychiatric settings on self-harm and suicidal ideation.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Dr Annie McCloud, Tower Hamlets Specialist Addictions Unit, St Clement's Hospital, 2a Bow Rd, London E3 4LL, UK. Tel: 020 7377 7975; e-mail: Annie.McCloud@elcmht.nhs.uk

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Baker, A., Lewin, T., Reichter, H., et al (2002) Evaluation of a motivational interview for substance use within psychiatric in-patient services. Addiction, 97, 13291337.
Barnaby, B., Drummond, C., McCloud, A., et al (2003) Substance misuse in psychiatric in-patients: comparison of a screening questionnaire survey with case notes. BMJ, 327, 783784.
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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Relationship between alcohol use disorders and suicidality in a psychiatric population: In-patient prevalence study

  • Annie McCloud (a1), Ben Barnaby (a2), Nicola Omu (a3), Colin Drummond (a2) and Andy Aboud (a3)...
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eLetters

The AUDIT and Suicidal Risk

Muzaffar Husain, Senior House Officer (Psychiatry)
26 May 2004

I read with interest McCloud et al’s (2004) paper considering the association between alcohol use disorders and suicidality in a psychiatricpopulation(1). Whilst the AUDIT (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) has indeed been established as a valuable screening tool in determining the prevalence of alcohol misuse in psychiatric inpatients(2),the extension of this association to actually predict or to identify the risks of suicidality runs into some trouble.

Firstly, from your data-set it seems that the OR (Odds Ratio) for theassociation of AUDIT scores of 8 or more with suicidality, albeit high (2.98), has a relatively wide 95% confidence interval (1.66-5.33). This phenomenon is even more so for the OR associating AUDIT scores of 16 or more with suicidality (95% CI: 3.23-20.3). Such a result would generally make a false positive finding in this study very likely.

One might argue that the above quoted figures still point toward a statistical difference between the two groups in both cases. However, if one were to consider that the outcome of suicidality is quite broadly defined in the study, and that in clinical practice one would concentrate on a much smaller number of high risk patients (i.e. patients with previous self-harm or existing plans), due to smaller numbers the results would lose statistical significance.

Secondly, we are not told directly of the association between suicidality and AUDIT scores of less than 8. A high OR in this group of patients could point toward any ‘background’ suicidality that may have confounded the overall results.

Finally, if the AUDIT were to be routinely used in secondary care forpsychiatric patients, perhaps the best place to test it for associations with suicidality would be parasuicide assessments in Casualty departments and Medical Admission Units rather than psychiatry wards. This is especially true when decisions have to be made about addressing underlyingsubstance misuse issues during later admissions to psychiatry wards.

The AUDIT may still have a vital role to play in identifying alcohol misuse in parasuicide assessments given the ease with which it can be quickly administered. In this case it would be a possible alternative to the CAGE questionnaire and would help clinicians broaden both diagnostic and therapeutic options. But the use of the same tool in the other direction, i.e. identifying suicidal risk by means of the AUDIT, remains to be proven.

References

1McCloud, A., Barnaby, B., Omu, N.,Drummond, C., and Aboud, A., (2004) Relationship between alcohol use disorders and suicidality in a psychiatric population. In-patient prevalence study. British Journal of Psychiatry,184, 439-445.2Barnaby, B.,Drummond, C., McCloud, A. ,et al (2003) Substance misuse in psychiatric patients: comparison of a screening questionnaire survey with case notes. BMJ,327, 783-784.
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Conflict of interest: None Declared

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