Alcohol and suicidal thoughts
People who drink heavily are more likely to experience suicidal feelings and thoughts. Find out more, and how to get support.
We’re exploring ways to improve support for people struggling with their alcohol consumption through their loved ones, and we need your help.
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For anyone that experiences suicidal thoughts, or a feeling they might harm themselves, it’s important to talk to someone. Help and support is available right now for anyone that needs it – you do not need to struggle alone.
If you’re experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide, Samaritans provides confidential, non-judgemental support, 24 hours a day. You can call them on 116 123 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is best to contact them when you’re able to have a conversation and have not been drinking.
If you have seriously harmed yourself, or feel that you may be about to harm yourself – call 999 or go straight to A&E if you are able to safely.
You can also contact your GP surgery to ask for an emergency appointment or call 111 for help finding local support. Most areas have an NHS mental health crisis number you, or someone on your behalf, can call.
Stopping drinking can help prevent feelings of depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts developing.9,10
Stopping or reducing drinking can also keep you safer by preventing you from carrying out actions you wouldn’t consider while not under the influence. For more insight complete the Drinkaware Drinking Check, a confidential self-assessment.
If you’re worried about your drinking - or someone else’s - and want to talk with someone confidentially, there is help. Drinkchat is a confidential online web chat service, available weekdays 9am to 2pm. Alternatively, you can call Drinkline confidentially on 0300 123 1100 on weekdays from 9am to 8pm, and 11am to 4pm at the weekend.
Alcohol is a depressant - it alters the delicate balance of chemicals in your brain.11
Drinking alcohol slows down the brain and processes in the central nervous system and can interfere with what our brains need to do to maintain good mental health.12 It can lead to a person experiencing negative emotions such as depression, anxiety or anger – which could all contribute to developing suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, of any age, gender or background, at any time.13
There is no simple explanation for why someone might feel suicidal. According to Samaritans, it’s usually due to a combination of lots of different factors interacting together – ranging from things that affect the individual, the community they are part of, or wider society.
Common causes include mental health problems, relationship issues, worries about money or work, bullying or discrimination, as well as alcohol and substance misuse or feeling desperate, helpless or without hope.
Some people may not even be sure what causes their feelings. But support is available no matter the reason.
Men are at higher risk of suicide (three-quarters of people who died by suicide in the UK in 2018 were men)14 and are more likely than women to turn to alcohol when they’re under stress.15 There is also a link to poverty – there are higher rates of suicide in poorer communities.16
If you are concerned that you or someone you care about has a problem with alcohol there is a lot of help available. Here you can find useful links and phone numbers to get the support you need.Get support
 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
 Norström, T., & Rossow, I. (2016). Alcohol Consumption as a Risk Factor for Suicidal Behavior: A Systematic Review of Associations at the Individual and at the Population Level. Archives of suicide research : official journal of the International Academy for Suicide Research, 20(4), 489–506. https://doi.org/10.1080/13811118.2016.1158678
 Darvishi, N., Farhadi, M., Haghtalab, T., and Poorolajal, J. (2015). Alcohol-related risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and completed suicide: a meta-analysis. PloS one, 10(5), e0126870. [Online].
 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), 698-707.
 Ness, J., Hawton, K., Bergen, H., Cooper, J., Steeg, S., Kapur, N., Clarke, M., & Waters, K. (2015). Alcohol use and misuse, self-harm and subsequent mortality: an epidemiological and longitudinal study from the multicentre study of self-harm in England. Emergency medicine journal : EMJ, 32(10), 793–799. https://doi.org/10.1136/emermed-2013-202753
 Mann, K., Aubin, H.-J., & Witkiewitz, K. (2017). Reduced Drinking in Alcohol Dependence Treatment, What Is the Evidence? European Addiction Research, 23(5), 219–230. https://doi.org/10.1159/000481348
 Charlet, K., & Heinz, A. (2017). Harm reduction-a systematic review on effects of alcohol reduction on physical and mental symptoms. Addiction Biology, 22(5), 1119–1159. https://doi.org/10.1111/adb.12414
 Abrahao, K. P., Salinas, A. G., & Lovinger, D. M. (2017). Alcohol and the Brain: Neuronal Molecular Targets, Synapses, and Circuits. Neuron, 96(6), 1223–1238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2017.10.032
 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.
 Mind website. Suicidal feelings page. (Accessed 28 September 2022). Available at: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/suicidal-feelings/about-suicidal-feelings/
 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.
Last Reviewed: 28th September 2022
Next Review due: 29th September 2025