Considered one of the nation’s greatest health epidemics by many in the medical field, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, especially among young people. Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 44,000 people. National Survivors of Suicide Day (November 18th) is a day when the friends and family of those who have died by suicide can join together for support and raise awareness about the factors associated with suicide.
Suicide, addiction, and depression have a very close relationship.
More than 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from depression, have or substance use disorder. For many, these conditions are co-occurring. Depression and substance misuse combine to form a vicious cycle that can lead to suicide. Many who experience severe depression frequently turn to drugs, alcohol or other risky behaviors in an attempt to numb the psychological, mental, emotional, or spiritual discomfort. For those with addiction, the obsession to drink or use clouds the user’s mind into believing that these substances can alleviate their source of pain.
Substance use and addiction actually increase the severity and duration of depressive episodes.
Despite any temporary relief they may provide substance use greatly increase the likelihood of suicidal thoughts (also known as suicidal ideation). This is exacerbated by the fact that addiction frequently damages or destroys familial, professional, personal, and financial relationships. Eroding relationships and feeling of isolation further increase the risk of suicide. Even worse, many substances severely impact judgment, leading to suicide attempts that users may not otherwise try while sober.
Causes of Suicide
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 suicide will occur. However, several factors can increase a person’s risk of attempting or dying by suicide.
Some of the most common risk factors for suicide include:
- Suicidal thoughts
- Previous suicide attempts
- A history of depression or other mental illness
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Family history of suicide, violence or abuse
- A history of trauma
- Previous incarceration
- Presence of firearms in the home
- Violent behavior towards others
Of all the factors associated with suicide, only depression is more closely correlated than substance misuse and addiction.
Individuals with a substance abuse disorder are nearly six times as likely to attempt suicide at some point in their life. Among veterans, men with a substance abuse disorder are more than twice as likely to commit suicide, and women with a substance abuse disorder are 6.5 times as likely to commit suicide.
Opioids and Suicide
Of all addictions, perhaps none is more likely to result in suicide than opioid addiction. The preliminary figures from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest that there were more than 64,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. Due to the nature of overdose, it is impossible to know how many of these deaths were accidental and how many were suicides. Men with an opioid use disorder were twice as likely to commit suicide, and women with an opioid use disorder were eight times as likely to commit suicide.
Suicide Warning Signs
Every person who contemplates suicide is dramatically different, as are the warning signs they exhibit. Some exhibit many “classic” warning signs for a long period of time before committing suicide, and some exhibit few warning signs publicly. It is rare that any one person will exhibit the complete range of warning signs. It is also important to note that many who exhibit warning signs never attempt or commit suicide, as signs can also be symptoms of other things, including mental illnesses.
Some of the most common warning signs of suicide include:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Isolation from friends and family
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Abandoning hobbies or other sources of enjoyment
- Behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Decease in work or academic performance
- Extreme mood swings
When these warning signs appear, it is important to quickly connect the person to supportive services that can intervene.
Suicide Prevention and Addiction Treatment
Of all the possible ways to lose a loved one, many find suicide to be the most painful.
Because of the assumption that suicide is a choice, many who are left behind feel that they could have done something to stop it. It is important to know that if you have lost someone to suicide, you are not responsible. Many who experience this type of tragic loss inappropriately place blame on themselves. This feeling can lead overwhelming guilt for family members and loved ones. It is important that we collectively continue to raise awareness about the warning signs in order to prevent future loss.
Because addiction greatly increases the risk of suicide, one of the most critical steps in suicide prevention is overcoming addiction and seeking recovery.
This can significantly alleviate the depression and related mental health symptoms associated with suicidal thoughts. Similarly, it can improve short-term judgment. Treatment allows mental health professionals to accurately assess and diagnose any underlying mental health concerns that lead suicide. Treatment programs that specialize in treating co-occurring disorders can help patients recover from multiple, serious issues – such as depression and substance use disorders – that lead to suicide.
If you or a loved one are having thoughts of suicide, it is imperative that you seek help immediately. Reach out now:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
If you or a loved one is suffering from drug addiction, know that you are not alone. Recovery is possible – treatment can lead the way. Feel free to contact our admissions department at: 844-250-9228.