Suicide and Substance Abuse

Suicide is a huge issue and one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life, it can be intentional or unintentional. The impact of suicide is far-reaching. It extends past the person who committed the act and impacts all the loved ones left behind. It has a deep impact on friends, family, and the community. They have to go on living their daily life with a newly created black hole that takes the place of their loved one.

Addiction and suicide are serious issues. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 1 in 12 adults has a substance use disorder and more than 41,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of suicide. Suicide is the leading cause of death among people who misuse alcohol and drugs. Opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin are found in 20 percent of people who commit suicide and about 22 percent of deaths by suicide involved alcohol intoxication.

Causes of Suicide

The dark grip of suicide can reach anyone. However, there are certain factors that lead to an increased risk of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by a single factor. These factors include, but are not limited to having depression and other mental health disorders, experiencing chronic pain, attempted suicide in the past, alcohol or drug use disorders, family history of alcohol or drug use disorders, and a family history of suicide.

Substance use increases the risk of suicidal behavior. Drug use, no matter how much or how little, impairs judgment, weakens impulse controls, and interrupts neurotransmitter pathways. All of these negative consequences of drug addiction can result in suicidal tendencies.

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs mentioned that people with opioid use disorder are 13 times more likely to die by suicide than those who do not have the disorder. Further, people who are on prescription opioid pills and have co-occurring psychiatric conditions are at an increased risk for suicide as well. For example, people are addicted to opioids and who experience depression, anxiety disorder, and personality disorders are at an increased risk of committing suicide.

Opioids and Suicide

Opioids are one form of suicide drugs. The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs mentioned that 4.3 percent of all suicides in 2014 involved opioids. Opioids were also involved in over 40 percent of suicide and overdose deaths in 2017. The article mentioned that due to the increased availability of prescription and illegal opioid drugs, suicides involving them have increased dramatically. Prescription opioid addiction has been linked to suicidal ideation, suicide planning, and suicide attempts.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2017, 47,600 people died from overdoses involving prescription or illegal opioids. Also, a significant number of people who overdose on opioids do so because they decide to take their own life. The article mentioned that people who misused prescription opioids were 40 to 60 percent more likely to have thoughts of suicide, even after all other mental health conditions were under control. A recent study stated that 39 percent of patients seeking overdose treatment from opioid drugs in a Michigan emergency room reported wanting to die or not caring about the risks associated with taking too high a dose. An additional 15 percent mentioned that they were not sure of their intentions. Based on the results of all these studies it appears that substance abuse and suicide are related.

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Suicide Warning Signs

In the event that you suspect that a loved one is thinking about committing suicide, there are some warning signs to keep an eye out for. These warning signs include buying a gun, stocking up on pills, increased substance or alcohol use, expressing hopelessness, speaking about suicide or wanting to kill oneself, feeling empty or like there is no reason to live, increased anxiety or agitation, increased anger, sleeping too much or too little, extreme mood swings, withdrawal from family and friends, making a plan to kill oneself, talking about being a burden, and saying goodbye to loved ones. However, not all people show warning signs that they are going to commit suicide. Some people try to hide their suicidal thoughts which makes it more difficult to see what they are thinking about doing.

Suicide Prevention

Therefore, being equipped with suicide prevention knowledge is an essential tool to ensure you or your loved one remains safe. If you or someone you know is exhibiting the warning signs for suicide, get help immediately. If it is an emergency call 911. If not, there are a number of suicide preventive steps that can be taken.

One step you can take is to ask the person if they are experiencing suicidal thoughts and want to kill themself. This question is not an easy one to ask but is important to open the door for them to feel comfortable speaking about their suicidal thoughts.

Another step is to do your best to keep your loved one safe. Although uncomfortable, inquire if they have a plan to commit suicide and remove any items that they could use to hurt themself. This is the best way to ensure that they do not have the tools they need to commit the act.

Further, it can also help to stay with them and listen to the reasons why they feel the way they do. For a lot of people talking about their problems makes them feel better. It can make them feel heard and understood, knowing someone cares. Talking about suicide can actually reduce their suicidal thoughts.

Getting Help

Another critical step in suicide prevention is to get yourself or a loved one help. In the event that you or someone you love is thinking about suicide, it’s crucial to get yourself or your loved one help. There are various resources that can help such as calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1a800a273a8255) or texting the Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) as well as getting yourself or a loved one in touch with a rehabilitation program to overcome the suicidal thoughts and drug addiction.

Substance abuse and suicidal ideation tend to go hand in hand. A high-quality rehabilitation clinic can help someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts because of their drug addiction problem. They will provide ongoing care that is focused on a person’s safety and suicide prevention. Rehab clinics can offer trained mental health counselors that can teach coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges. Further, they can provide safe and supportive environments that offer activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone.

Even after the immediate threat seems to have passed it is important to follow up with a loved one to ensure that they are still doing well and make sure they are not thinking about harming themself. Knowing someone cares makes a world of difference and can reduce the chances that a loved one will attempt to harm themself again.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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