Study finds sharp monthly fluctuations in levels of adolescent male visits to emergency department for drug related suicide attempts

A new study examining monthly and seasonal trends in the number of emergency department visits involving drug related suicide attempts reveals considerable fluctuations among adolescent males. The rate for the general population varies little.

 The study conducted by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) showed that only 2.5 percent of drug related suicide attempt emergency room visits by males aged 12-17 occur in February – as opposed to 18.9 percent reported in December.

December also marked the highest level of emergency department drug related suicide attempt visits by men aged 50 and older (12.9 percent). The lowest level of visits for males in this age group was in October (5.5 percent).  

By comparison, the study showed that the rate of visits remained relatively constant for the rest of the population including males aged 18 to 49. 

“Emergency departments present an opportunity to intervene in a way that can help prevent future attempts, said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “While the study does not identify the factors that lead to fluctuations in drug related suicide attempts, it does point to the need for additional research in the factors that play a role in suicidality , particularly among both younger and older males.

The study found that from 2004 to 2008, on average, each year emergency departments dealt with 178,423 visits for drug-related suicide attempts by patients 12 or older. Overall the number of visits reported by emergency departments ranged from12,656 in February (7.1 percent) to 16, 812 visits in September (9.4 percent).

The study’s findings are being announced in conjunction with today’s meeting of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, a public/private partnership (including SAMHSA) to update and advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The Alliance’s goal is to enhance efforts to address what has become the foremost, preventable public-health tragedy in our nation: suicide. One of the meeting’s specific goals is to more effectively deliver suicide prevention services and messages to high-risk groups. The Action Alliance is engaging every sector of society, public, private and philanthropic to help reach people at risk and help them stay safe.

The study, Monthly and Seasonal Variation in Emergency Department Visits for Drug-Related Suicide Attempts: 2004 to 2008 is an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues. The report is part of SAMHSA’s Strategic Initiative on Data, Outcomes, and Quality and is based on SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) report. DAWN is a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency department visits reported throughout the nation. A copy of the study is available at

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SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. Its mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.