Suicide and Substance Abuse and Addiction
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death among all Americans. In 2015, 44,193 Americans died from suicide. Of all addictions, perhaps none is more likely to result in suicide than opioid addiction. In 2015, over 33,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know how many of these deaths were accidental and how many were suicides.
Suicide, addiction and depression are closely related. More than 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from depression; have a substance abuse disorder, or both. Many people who experience depression (such as Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and other conditions) frequently turn to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other risky behaviors to numb their pain or alleviate their feelings.
Substance abuse and addiction actually increase the severity and duration of depressive episodes. Despite any temporary relief that substance abuse may provide, it actually increases the likelihood of suicidal ideation. Even worse, many substances severely impact judgment, leading to suicide attempts.
Some of the most common risk factors for suicide include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Previous suicide attempts
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Family/community history of suicide
- Family history of violence and/or sexual abuse
- Presence of firearms in the home
- Spending too much time alone as possible.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities they normally find enjoyable.
- Episodes of intense emotion such as sadness or anger.
- Being reckless (driving too fast, ‘showing off’ with dangerous pranks, etc.)
- Talking about suicide and death.
- Being impulsive. Or rather, not taking time to think about the ‘bigger picture’ or what their actions could mean for their future.
- Saying goodbye to people, as though they will never meet them again.
- Lack of focus and concentration.
- Pessimistic about the future, even when positive opportunities arise.
- Violent behavior towards others
In the beginning, having a drink or using drugs appears to alleviate the problems, but the fact is it will only exacerbate the problems over time. Without learning to properly cope with the underlying disorder, it will require evermore drugs and alcohol to keep the problems at bay. Eventually, the substances will no longer work and the problems will actually be worse than they were in the beginning.
If you suspect someone you love might be contemplating suicide it is imperative to get help immediately.
Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for assistance.
Because substance abuse so greatly increases the risk of suicide, one of the most critical steps is to overcome any addictions and get sober. First of all, the person needs to be mentally stabilized after their suicidal attempt and then the next essential step needs to be a Residential Inpatient Treatment program. Being sober will also help alleviate the person’s depression and mental health symptoms and improve their short-term judgment and lack of impulse control.
If you have lost someone to suicide it is important to know that it was NOT your fault. Any decisions they made were entirely their own, and you hold no responsibility for their actions.
Johnina Noar, BS, CADC-II
AToN Center 888-535-1516