Suicide is an escalating public health problem, and alcohol use has consistently been implicated in the precipitation of suicidal behavior. Alcohol abuse may lead to suicidality through disinhibition, impulsiveness and impaired judgment, but it may also be used as a means to ease the distress associated with committing an act of suicide. We reviewed evidence of the relationship between alcohol use and suicide through a search of MedLine and PsychInfo electronic databases. Multiple genetically-related intermediate phenotypes might influence the relationship between alcohol and suicide. Psychiatric disorders, including psychosis, mood disorders and anxiety disorders, as well as susceptibility to stress, might increase the risk of suicidal behavior, but may also have reciprocal influences with alcohol drinking patterns. Increased suicide risk may be heralded by social withdrawal, breakdown of social bonds, and social marginalization, which are common outcomes of untreated alcohol abuse and dependence. People with alcohol dependence or depression should be screened for other psychiatric symptoms and for suicidality. Programs for suicide prevention must take into account drinking habits and should reinforce healthy behavioral patterns.
Keywords: alcohol abuse; pathophysiology; prevention; psychiatric disorders; suicidal behavior.