Lethal means reduction: what have we learned?

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Lethal means reduction: what have we learned?

Category: Firearm Availability, Firearm Policies, Suicide|Journal: Current Opinion in Pediatrics|Author: R Johnson, T Coyne-Beasley|Year: 2009

Purpose of Review

Suicide is an important global public health problem. Across nations, suicide rates are linked to the availability of lethal means. Three methods dominate country-specific suicide rates: firearms, pesticides, and hanging. There is increasing international support for reducing the availability of lethal means to prevent suicide. This article reviews evidence regarding lethal means reduction as a suicide-prevention strategy.

Recent Findings

Most evidence in support of means reduction comes from ecological studies examining the association between population-level decreases in the availability of a given lethal means of suicide and method-specific suicide rates. Substantial declines in method-specific suicide rates were shown following reductions in availability of lethal means through initiatives such as the passage of firearm control laws, detoxification of domestic gas, modification of drug packaging and toxicity, and installation of barriers at jump sites. The vast majority of the evidence for the effectiveness of lethal means reduction relates to reducing the availability of firearms and pesticides.


Implementing means reduction at both the population and individual levels poses many challenges, particularly when political issues arise during regulation of firearms or pesticides. Nevertheless, evidence strongly suggests that means reduction is effective and should be an important part of a suicide-prevention strategy.

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