Pubdate: Sat, 27 Dec 2014
Source: Montreal Gazette (CN QU)
Copyright: 2014 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jason Magder
Page: A7


Drug Causes Mood Swings, Impulsive Behaviour, Montreal Research Shows

Users of cocaine and amphetamines are twice as likely to attempt 
suicide than other people who inject drugs, a new study from the 
Universite de Montreal has found.

The study, published in the Nov. 26 issue of the journal Drug and 
Alcohol Dependence, followed the users of injectable drugs over a 
seven-year period. The users answered questionnaires twice a year. 
The study found that users of cocaine and amphetamines were roughly 
twice as likely to attempt suicide than users of opiates, 
sedative-hypnotics, cannabis and alcohol.

Didier Jutras-Aswad, one of the study's authors, said the findings 
are important because while it is well known that people who abuse 
alcohol and drugs are more likely to commit suicide, no study has 
broken down which substances put users more at risk for suicidal behaviour.

"We know that cocaine and amphetamines are very potent mood 
changers," Jutras-Aswad said. "These substances may have an impact on 
the brain, that may lead people to commit suicide."

He added that an attempted suicide is a good indicator that a person 
will successfully kill themselves if they attempt it again.

He said users of cocaine and amphetamines have personality traits 
that make them generally more impulsive and more subject to mood 
swings, and the drugs themselves also cause mood swings and impulsive 

The results show there needs to be a more concerted effort to develop 
treatments for cocaine and amphetamine addicts, Jutras-Aswad said.

One of the reasons he believes users of opiates or even alcoholics 
are less likely to attempt suicide is that there are already good 
treatments, including medication. In the case of heroin addicts, for 
example, patients are treated with methadone to ease them off the 
drug, and reduce their dependency.

"We really have a group that is at much higher risk, and so we have 
to develop specific interventions for that population," he said.

He added that he would like to see a medical treatment for cocaine 
and amphetamine users, but noted that because of their high risk for 
suicidal behaviour, any treatment would have to include an extensive 
psychological follow up.

As well as being a researcher at the university, Jutras-Aswad is an 
addiction psychiatrist at the Centre hospitalier de l'Universite de 
Montreal. He said the study has already changed how he treats his patients.

"Clearly, we pay more attention to those who use cocaine and 
amphetamines when there are other factors for suicide," he said. "In 
the research centre, we're exploring, developing and testing new 
medications to treat cocaine addiction. That will hopefully help us 
to better treat these people who for now don't have a lot of 
treatments available to them."

He said addicts often have mental health problems and they resort to 
substance abuse as a way to cope with financial stress, emotional 
issues or depression.

"We're really trying to help them find new ways to cope with life and 
stress," he said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom