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Substance abuse and suicide

Substance abuse unfortunately can be fatal. There are many people all across the world who are suffering with their addiction and alcoholism and can only find one way out of their misery and pain and that is through suicide. For many of us who are now in recovery, towards the end we may have had thoughts about suicide as dark and scary as that is. It is sad but it is the truth that substance abuse and suicide often can go hand in hand. If it isn’t an overdose that kills an addict or alcoholic it usually is suicide.

Substance abuse and suicide

Substance abuse (addiction and alcoholism) is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the general population and it is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. One of the reasons for the high mortality rate is the increase of suicide among addicts and alcoholics.

The research

Studies of patients who are substance abusers have definitely shown an elevated risk of suicide. Although the numbers vary greatly; some people have cited a suicide rate among substance abusers of up to 15% and others have estimated a lifetime risk of suicide among alcoholics and addicts of only 2 to 3%.

The overall risk of completed suicide in the United States is less than 1%.

But out of that 1% around 15 to 25% of them is suicides committed by alcoholics. And even for non-alcoholics, around 50% of the suicides had at the least alcohol associated with them.

Substance abuse and suicide is more common among men and among people who have been using and drinking for a long time. Although this is true suicide is also prevalent in adolescents and young adults.

Suicide is reported to be the second leading cause of death in the 15 to 24 year old age group. And studies on it have shown that around 70% of those suicides among adolescents had substance abuse problems and one-third actually had a BAC of over 0.1%.

Suicide and substance abuse is disturbing for both adults and children and the numbers are even more unsettling but it is known that all these numbers are most likely underestimations. It can be really hard when it comes to suicide and substance abuse to know how many injuries are actually suicide attempts and some people suggest that overdoses, needle sharing, risky drug buying behavior, and general lack of self-preservation by addicts and alcoholics are actually passive suicidal tendencies.

But why?

  • Substance abuse and suicide may go hand in hand due to the depression that so many addicts and alcoholics suffer from. Depression in those with a substance abuse problem can significantly increase the risk of suicide.
  • Substance and suicide could also be linked to the mixture of drug and alcohol use with other mental health issues such as bipolar, bulimia, anorexia nervosa, and anxiety. Many addicts and alcoholics do not take their meds regularly either and this can lead to a higher rate of suicide in those with substance abuse also.
  • Substance abuse and suicide could be linked even more due to an addict and alcoholic’s behavior while intoxicated. Addicts and alcoholics that are intoxicated tend to have poor judgment, are more aggressive, impulsive, and disinhibited. This also goes for during withdrawal from drugs and alcohol.
  • And last but not least substance abuse and suicide could be strongly linked due to the substance abuse causing the loss of social supports, a home, a job, health, money, and family.

The good news is that addicts and alcoholics can and do recover from substance abuse. And suicide in substance abusers is much more likely during periods of active use rather than in recovery. So the best way to deal with the likelihood of suicide is to deal with the substance abuse and to help addicts and alcoholics to get clean and sober.

If you or someone you know is in need of substance abuse treatment, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.


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