Alcohol abuse is strongly associated with suicide. Alcoholics are at a high risk of suicide, and studies of case series of suicide show that alcoholics account for between 20% and 40% of all suicides. What is less clear is the role of alcohol in the events leading up to the suicide. This study reviews the characteristics of individuals who consumed alcohol prior to suicide. All cases of suicide assessed by the Department of Forensic Medicine, Dundee University between 1988 and 1995 were reviewed. Data were obtained on blood-alcohol levels of 349 cases, together with the method and circumstances of the suicide, demographic variables and reports of past psychiatric history. Forty-five per cent of suicide cases had consumed alcohol and 19% were drunk (BAC > 150 mg/dl) at the time of the suicide. Consumption of alcohol was not associated with a particular method of suicide, nor with social factors such as employment status, marital status or social class. However, alcohol use was more common among those with no previous psychiatric history. This study confirms that alcohol consumption is a common precursor to suicide. It suggests that alcohol may play a more important role in the events leading to suicide amongst individuals with no previous psychiatric history.