This research examines the relationship between suicide by teenagers and drug consumption by teenagers. The term "drugs" includes illegal street narcotics and alcohol. The term "teenage" refers to 15-19 year olds. The suicide rate for 15-19 year olds is 10.2 persons per 100,000 population--18.2 for white males, the highest in this age group, and 2.1 for black females, the lowest in this age group. For all age groups, the suicide rate in the United States is 12.8 persons per 100,000 population. Thus, suicide among white male teenagers is a significant social problem. In numbers of deaths, as opposed to rates per 100,000 population, somewhat less than 3,000 persons among the 15-19 year olds commit suicide each year. As a leading cause of death, suicide ranks third for persons in this age group.
While fewer teenagers are consuming alcohol and other illegal narcotics in the mid-1990s than was the case five years earlier, the proportion of problem drug users among contemporary teenagers is greater than among earlier generations (Wood, Cochran, Pfefferbaum, & Arneklev, 1995, pp. 173-193). Various surveys indicate that the proportion of regular users of alcohol and illegal narcotics among American teenagers is in the range of 24 percent to 60 percent, while from 12 percent to 43 percent of teenagers participate in heavy drug consumption in binges. Approximately 20 percent of American teenagers are considered to be problem drug users.
Links between the phenomenon of teenage suicide and the consumption of illegal drugs by teenagers have been postulated by a variety of researchers over the past three decades. Such linkages typically have been sought through the hypothesized chain of drug abuse-loss of self esteem-increased depression- suicide. The disaffection of teenagers from their families and from society generally has been hypothesized as a catalyst for initiating this chain of actions.
A variety of reasons underlie the ...