Childhood exposure to a parental suicide attempt and risk for substance use disorders

Kimberly H. McManama O'Brien, Christopher P. Salas-Wright, Michael G. Vaughn, Mary LeCloux

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9 Citations (Scopus)


Childhood exposure to parental suicidal behavior has been linked to a variety of adverse behavioral and health outcomes. However, relatively little is known about the degree to which such exposure may place individuals at risk for a substance use disorder (SUD). Employing data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, we compared the prevalence of SUDs among those who experienced childhood exposure to parental suicide attempts. Childhood exposure to parental suicide attempts was not associated with increased risk for the development of alcohol, cannabis, or cocaine use disorders. However, individuals who were exposed to aparental suicide attempt as children were significantly more likely to have met criteria for stimulant (AOR. =. 1.40, 95% CI. =. 1.18-1.67), sedative (AOR. =. 1.24, 95% CI. =. 1.04-1.47), tranquilizer (AOR. =. 1.78, 95% CI. =. 1.45-2.20), and opioid (AOR. =. 1.41, 95% CI. =. 1.19-1.67) use disorders in their lifetime. No significant gender differences were identified with respect to the magnitude of the relationship between exposure to parental suicide attempts and SUD risk among men and women. Findings suggest that, controlling for an array of sociodemographic, parental, mental health, and childhood adversity confounds, childhood exposure to parental suicide attempts is a vulnerability factor for low prevalence illicit drugs (i.e. stimulants, sedatives, tranquilizers, opioids), but not for more commonly used substances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-76
Number of pages7
JournalAddictive Behaviors
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Jul 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by grant number R25 DA026401 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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