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Suicide in Young Adults: Depression, Addiction Are Primary Contributors

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Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among young people. In the United States, it is the tenth leading cause of death, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people. According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, the risk is highest among people aged 18-25. It is the second leading cause of death among teens.


Suicide, addiction, and depression are closely related.


More than 90% of people who commit suicide struggle with a mental health disorder or addiction. For many young people, these conditions are co-occurring. Depression and addiction are a deadly combination. Like adults, young people with depression frequently turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to numb psychological, mental, emotional, or spiritual discomfort. For those with addiction, the obsession to use drugs leads them to believe that these substances will make them feel better.


Addiction can increase the severity and duration of depressive episodes.


Abusing mind-altering substances can increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts (also known as suicidal ideation). Drug use can also destroy personal relationships, lead to feelings of isolations and impair judgment. These factors often increase the risk that someone may end their life.


Suicide Has a Range of Causes


Every case of suicide is dramatically different, as are its causes. In most cases, there is no single cause, but rather a constellation of contributing factors that lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression. Risk factors do not always mean that someone will harm themselves.


Some of the most common risk factors include:


  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • A history of mental illness, such as depression
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • A family history of violence or abuse
  • Presence of firearms in the home
  • Violent behavior


Only depression is more closely correlated to suicide than addiction. Individuals with a substance abuse disorder are nearly six times as likely to report a suicide attempt during their lifetime.



Know the Warning Signs


Warning signs do not follow any one set pattern. Some people exhibit classic warning signs for months or years before committing suicide. Others exhibit none at all. Treating professionals know that these warning signs do not always mean that someone may attempt to take their own life.


The most common warning signs include:


  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, including online
  • Talking about feeling trapped or hopeless
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Increased alcohol or drug use
  • Abandoning hobbies
  • Reckless behavior
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Poor academic or work performance
  • Extreme mood swings


If you see these warning signs, connect the person with professional supporters soon as possible.

Treatment is a critical step in suicide prevention.


Treatment can address mental health symptoms commonly associated with suicidal thoughts. Similarly, abstinence from mind-altering substances can improve short-term judgment. Only mental health professionals are qualified to diagnose mental health concerns that lead suicide.


If someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, guide them immediately:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255  

The light at the end of the tunnel: 844-843-8935.