Alcohol and suicide
People who misuse alcohol are more vulnerable to suicide. Here we explain the link between alcohol, suicidal feelings and thoughts, depression and how to get support.
If you have seriously harmed yourself and your life is in danger, or you are worried about someone else’s life, get help as a matter of urgency – call 999 or go to A&E.
If you’re experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide, Samaritans provides confidential, non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day. You can call them on 116 123 or email them at email@example.com. It is best to call them when you are able to have a conversation and have not been drinking.
You can also contact your GP and ask for an emergency appointment or call 111 for help finding local support.
According to the Samaritans, there is no simple explanation for why someone might feel suicidal and it is rarely due to one particular factor.
Mental health problems are important influences, as well as alcohol and substance misuse, feeling desperate, helpless or without hope.
Drinking alcohol can lead to a person experiencing negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or anger – even if they were in a good mood when they started drinking. This is because alcohol is a depressant. It slows down the brain and processes in the central nervous system and can interfere with what our brains need to do to keep good mental health. In the long-term, drinking alcohol can contribute to negative feelings and make anxiety harder to deal with.
Drinking heavily and regularly is associated with symptoms of depression, although it can be difficult to disentangle cause and effect when the two go together. Alcohol is known to affect several nerve-chemical systems which are important in regulating mood.8 When the sequence is studied, it is clear that people can experience feeling depressed after drinking.9 It has also often been shown that reducing or stopping drinking can improve mood.10,11,12,13,14
Medications prescribed for depression should not be mixed with alcohol.15 Some of the commonly prescribed anti-depressants tend to increase the risk of relapse to heavy drinking in people who are trying to cut down or abstain, so antidepressants should only be taken with great caution.16,17,18
Alcohol use can be a trigger to suicidal feelings and thoughts. Drinking less or stopping drinking could help prevent from having suicidal feelings and thoughts.
Because alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions, drinking less or avoiding alcohol could prevent them from carrying out actions they wouldn’t consider doing while sober.
Alcohol can make stress harder to deal with and can worsen feelings of anxiety and depression. Reducing or stopping drinking can help keep you in good mental health.
If you’re worried about your drinking - or someone else’s - and want to talk with someone confidentially, we can help. Drinkchat is a confidential online web chat service, available weekdays 9am to 2pm. Alternatively, you can call Drinkline confidentially on 0300 123 1100 weekdays 9am to 8pm and weekends 11am to 4pm.
 Edwards, A.C., Ohlsson, H., Sundquist, J., Sundquist, K. and Kendler, K.S. (2020). Alcohol use disorder and risk of suicide in a Swedish population-based cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry
 Gan, G., Guevara, A., Marxen, M., Neumann, M., Jünger, E., Kobiella, A., Mennigen, E., Pilhatsch, M., Schwarz, D., Zimmermann, U.S. and Smolka, M.N., 2014. Alcohol-induced impairment of inhibitory control is linked to attenuated brain responses in right fronto-temporal cortex. Biological psychiatry, 76(9), pp.698-707. Available at: biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223(14)00015-8/abstract. [Accessed 23 February 2017].
 Chaplin, T.M., Hong, K., Bergquist, K. and Sinha, R. (2008). Gender differences in response to emotional stress: an assessment across subjective, behavioral, and physiological domains and relations to alcohol craving. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(7), 1242-1250.
 Sari, Y. (2017). Commentary: Targeting NMDA receptor and serotonin transporter for the treatment of comorbid alcohol dependence and depression. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 41(2), 275.
 Boden, J.M. and Fergusson, D.M. (2011). Alcohol and depression. Addiction, 106(5), 906-914.
 Cordovil De Sousa Uva, M., Luminet, O., Cortesi, M., Constant, E., Derely, M. and De Timary, P. (2010). Distinct effects of protracted withdrawal on affect, craving, selective attention and executive functions among alcohol-dependent patients. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 45(3), 241-246.
 Craig, M., Pennacchia, A., Wright, N.R., Chase, H.W. and Hogarth, L. (2011). Evaluation of un-medicated, self-paced alcohol withdrawal. PloS One, 6(7).
 Potamianos, G., Meade, T.W., North, W.R.S., Townsend, J. and Peters, T.J. (1986). Randomised trial of community-based centre versus conventional hospital management in treatment of alcoholism. The Lancet, 328(8510), 797-799.
 Shaw, G.K., Waller, S., Latham, C.J., Dunn, G. and Thomson, A.D. (1998). The detoxication experience of alcoholic in-patients and predictors of outcome. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 33(3), 291-303.
 Driessen, M., Meier, S., Hill, A., Wetterling, T., Lange, W. and Junghanns, K. (2001). The course of anxiety, depression and drinking behaviours after completed detoxification in alcoholics with and without comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 36(3), 249-255.
 British National Formulary, Section 4.3 BMJ Group and RPS Publishing.
 Charney, D.A., Heath, L.M., Zikos, E., Palacio-Boix, J. and Gill, K.J. (2015). Poorer Drinking Outcomes with Citalopram Treatment for Alcohol Dependence: A Randomized, Double‐Blind, Placebo‐Controlled Trial. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 39(9), pp.1756-1765.
 Kranzler, H.R., Burleson, J.A., Korner, P., Del Boca, F.K., Bohn, M.J., Brown, J. and Liebowitz, N. (1995). Placebo-controlled trial of fluoxetine as an adjunct to relapse prevention in alcoholics. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 152(3), 391–397.
 Chick, J. (2019). Unhelpful prescribing in alcohol use disorder: risk and averting risk. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 54(1), 1-4.