Substance Abuse and its Effect on Attempted Suicide in High School Students: a Quantitative Analysis

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The physical effects of substance use (tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana) are well known, but it is not clear whether the use of these substances can be a warning sign for psychological or emotional problems in high school students. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is a nationwide survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every other year which asks students questions about risk behaviors such as substance use, sexual activity, the amount of violence in their lives, and suicide attempts. We examined students who were involved in the use of substances more commonly found in high schools (tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana) to see if they were significantly more likely to attempt suicide than their peers who were not involved in this type of activity. A multiple logistic regression analysis was performed on the 2013 Nationwide YRBS data (n = 13,583) to examine this effect while controlling for the following possible covariates: depression, gender, age, race, lack of sleep, and access to weapons. Results of this analysis showed a significant increase in suicide attempts among students who used tobacco and marijuana (OR = 1.987, 95%CI = 1.638, 2.411; OR = 1.273, 95%CI = 1.038, 1.561, respectively). However, the results of this analysis did not show a significant increase in suicide attempts for students that consumed alcohol. It was interesting to see that while possession and use of marijuana for a high school student is a more highly punishable crime, tobacco use is a better indicator for possible attempts at suicide. While there are many variables at play when it comes to substance use and suicide risk, these results indicate that students who are identified as users of tobacco and marijuana should be looked at more closely as they represent a population more susceptible to attempting suicide.


Johnson City, TN

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