Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Another Study Links Cigarettes with Suicide

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Another Study Links Cigarettes with Suicide

Article excerpt

VIENNA -- Current or former cigarette smoking is strongly associated with an increased rate of prior suicide attempts among Hungarian psychiatric outpatients, Dr. Zoltan Rihmer reported at the annual congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

This finding confirms a link between cigarette smoking and suicidal behavior that has been previously noted in large epidemiological studies conducted elsewhere, including Finland and the United States, said Dr. Rihmer of the Hungarian National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology, Budapest.

"Cigarette smoking is very important. When I learned that cigarette smoking is an independent suicide risk factor, I changed my smoking habit. I stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking a pipe," he quipped.

He and his colleagues interviewed 334 consecutive outpatients with unipolar major depression; bipolar disorder; panic disorder with no history of major depression; schizoaffective disorder; or schizophrenia as to their smoking habits and prior suicide attempts. Of these, 53% were current cigarette smokers and another 15% were ex-smokers. Not a single patient was primarily a pipe or cigar smoker or used smokeless tobacco.

In all, 37% of subjects had made one or more medically documented suicide attempts. The rate was 48% among current smokers, 43% in ex-smokers, and 25% in never-smokers. With the exception of patients with panic disorder (of whom only 3 of 60 reported a prior suicide attempt), the prevalence of prior suicide attempts was substantial among patients in all of the other diagnostic categories, ranging from 32% among all patients with bipolar disorder to 53% in those with unipolar depression.

A limitation of this study was that the results weren't adjusted for potential confounding vari ables, such as alcohol and caffeine consumption, age, and socioeconomic status, Dr. Rihmer noted.

The Hungarian findings, however, are consistent with a Finnish study that did adjust for potential confounders. In that study, the adjusted probability of one or more prior suicide attempts for 1,217 psychiatric inpatients was twice as great in current smokers as in nonsmokers. …

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