This study investigates the prevalence of excessive drinking and alcohol-related problems amongst suicide attempts. It also compares the characteristics of attempted suicide by alcohol consumption group. Drinking histories were taken on 250 consecutive attempted suicides admitted to the West Midlands Poisons Unit. Fifty-one per cent of the men and 31% of the women drank more than the weekly limits recommended by the Health Education Council. Of the men, 22.5% drank more than 50 units of alcohol a week and 9.5% of the women drank more than 35 units of alcohol a week. Alcohol-related problems (social problems, alcohol dependence or physical illness) were present in 34% of men and 15.5% of women. These results show a greater incidence of alcohol misuse than previous studies on attempted suicide. This is probably because detailed alcohol histories were taken on all patients. Alcohol misuse is best treated before major alcohol-related problems develop. Those responsible for assessing cases of attempted suicide should be adept at detecting alcohol misuse and instituting appropriate management.