Alcohol and drug offenses and suicide risk among men who purchased a handgun in California: A cohort study

Prev Med. 2021 Dec:153:106821. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2021.106821. Epub 2021 Sep 30.


Firearm access is a risk factor for firearm suicide; substance use may confer additional risk. In this retrospective cohort study, we estimated the associations between prior alcohol and drug charges at the time of handgun purchase and subsequent suicide among men in California. The sample comprised all men who legally purchased a handgun in California in 2001 and who were age ≥ 21 at the time of acquisition (N = 101,377), identified in the California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) Dealer's Record of Sale database. Exposures included alcohol and drug criminal charges and convictions accrued January 1, 1990 until the first ('index') handgun acquisition in 2001, recorded in the CA DOJ Criminal History Information System. Outcomes included suicide and firearm suicide occurring after the index purchase and before January 1, 2016. A total of 1907 purchasers had alcohol charges, 1248 had drug charges, and 304 had both; 594 purchasers died by suicide (516 by firearm suicide). Compared with those with neither alcohol nor drug charges, those with alcohol charges had 2.20 times the hazard of suicide (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.39-3.46) and 2.22 times the hazard of firearm suicide (95% CI, 1.36-3.62). Risk was most elevated among those with more recent charges and those with 2 or more charges, and in the time period closest to the purchase. The associations for drug charges and the combination of alcohol and drug charges were not distinguishable from the null. Firearm owners with alcohol offenses may benefit from intervention to reduce firearm access and alcohol use.

Keywords: Alcohol; Drug; Firearm; Gun; Handgun; Substance use; Suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • California / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Suicide*
  • Violence