Introduction Decades of research show an association between alcohol use and death by suicide. However, findings on the temporal link between alcohol use and death by suicide are unclear. In the most comprehensive meta-analysis on the topic to date, we analyzed data from longitudinal studies to determine if alcohol use is a risk for death by suicide. We also explored moderators to uncover conditions where the alcohol use-suicide link is strengthened/weakened. Methods Our literature search of six databases yielded 33 eligible studies involving 10,253,101 participants (community, psychiatric, and military samples). Results Alcohol use was associated with a 94% increase in the risk of death by suicide. Specifically, random-effects meta-analysis revealed alcohol use displayed small-to-large significant risk and odds ratios with suicide for quantity of alcohol use and alcohol use diagnosis/alcohol-related problems. Meta-regression generally indicated larger effect sizes for studies with a higher percentage of women, younger age, unadjusted estimates, longer follow-up periods, military samples, and higher frequencies and quantities of alcohol use (relative to drinker/non-drinker status). Conclusion Our study highlights alcohol use as a substantive risk factor for death by suicide and underscores the importance of monitoring alcohol use among suicidal individuals and screening for suicidality among heavier alcohol users.