Drug users with a history of severe childhood abuse may have an increased risk for suicide, a new study says.
Researchers looked at more than 1 600 drug users in Vancouver, Canada, and found that those who had been victims of severe-to-extreme childhood abuse particularly emotional or sexual had a significantly higher risk for suicide attempts.
Less severe abuse, and any degree of physical or emotional neglect, did not boost the risk, according to the researchers.
During the study, 80 participants reported 97 suicide attempts. That rate is about five times higher than in the general population. Those who suffered severe-to-extreme childhood abuse had much higher risk of suicide attempts – 2.9 to 3.5 times more for emotional abuse, 2.5 to 2.8 times for sexual abuse and 1.6 to 2 times for physical abuse – than those who experienced little or no abuse.
The researchers calculated these higher rates of risk after taking into account other suicide risk factors such as depression, homelessness and prior suicidal thoughts.
The findings, published July 18 in the American Journal of Public Health, show "how detrimental childhood trauma can be," study lead author Brandon Marshall, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health, said in a university news release. "We saw extremely strong associations, which suggest that abuse has lasting mental health impacts well into adulthood," Marshall said.
This study shows that all of forms of childhood abuse whether emotional, physical or sexual are important risk factors for suicide to various degrees, he noted. "Care providers and health professionals should screen for these types of abuse and intervene whenever they see a situation of severe abuse, regardless of what type it was," said Marshall.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discusses suicide prevention.