The Correlation Between Addiction and Suicide

It’s the sad truth that 24 million Americans are afflicted with the disease of addiction right now, at this very moment. It’s a much more unfortunate reality that this means millions more are affected by having a loved one deep in the throes of addiction. Parents, siblings, spouses, and friends are left to worry that every phone call or knock at the door will be about a tragedy regarding their loved one. Whether it be about an arrest, an overdose, or even their death.

Hundreds of thousands of addicts are dying due to overdose, many accidental and some even intentional. In fact, a Norwegian study examined 1,608 patients who attended drug treatment over the course of three years. Of their findings, 2.3 percent of these patients passed away, and 14.3 percent of those deaths were caused by suicide.

A Closer Look at Drug & Alcohol Abuse and Suicide

Suicide kills almost 88 people every single day in the US, according to SAMHSA. This means that someone succeeds in taking their own life every 16 minutes. According to a study their team conducted, drug and alcohol abuse is the second highest risk factor when it comes to suicide, trailing only behind depression and other mood disorders.

However, data also suggests that this doesn’t necessarily mean that drug and alcohol addiction causes suicide, but rather that those who are more likely to abuse substances are also more likely to attempt or complete suicide. This makes sense, seeing as it’s already been proven that substance abuse is typically just a symptom of a larger problem. Therefore, we have to examine the underlying issues behind addiction to understand the causes of suicidal thoughts and ideation in these cases.

The Jama Network published a study about how childhood abuse and trauma relates to suicide attempts, but some of their findings were clouded due to the prevalence of drug abuse and alcoholism. The same study concluded that the highest risk factors of suicide in their participants were self-reported depression, self-reported alcoholism, and admitting to abusing illicit drugs.

Recognizing Warning Signs of Depression

It’s not always easy to tell if someone close to you is dealing with substance abuse or even addiction. Many of us are very good at hiding it. So, it’s not always easy to know what to look for, let alone recognizing the underlying issues behind it.

It has been proven that between one-third and one-half of people battling addiction are also battling some form of mental illness. When many think of mental illness they think of the easily recognizable disorders — like Schizophrenia or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). However, many often overlook depression and anxiety or they won’t even validate these ailments as being as serious as they are.

Clinical depression is often underdiagnosed. Many would-be patients are too deep in it to care about getting help — or simply don’t have the energy or motivation. And unfortunately, many family members look at them as being lazy or dramatic and don’t realize that something serious is happening inside their brains, so they end up not getting the help they need and it becomes too late.

Many people with untreated or undertreated mental illnesses end up turning to drugs and alcohol as a way to self-medicate. While mental disorders are often caused by some faulty wiring in the brain, drug and alcohol abuse also affect the brain’s chemistry, numbing the pain of their symptoms.  

Signs to look for when you suspect your loved one might be dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts may include:

  • Insomnia or sleeping all the time
  • Anxiety and guilt over seemingly small things
  • Frequent mood swings
  • General sadness or hopelessness
  • Inability to concentrate or take interest in pleasurable things
  • Gaining weight or losing weight quickly
  • Talking about suicide, either directly or indirectly

depressed man in the street

It’s important to not dismiss these actions or observations as something less serious. You could become afflicted yourself without even realizing it.

If you are worried about someone close to you, you have options. It’s a good idea to talk to a professional before taking any drastic steps or measures, as people in this state are often fragile or could easily take your gesture different than your intentions behind it.  

How Do You Help Someone Who is Suicidal and Addicted?

Learning that a family member, partner, or friend is dealing with not only depression, but addiction as well can overwhelm even the toughest of people. It may bring you to your own feeling of hopelessness. Addiction and suicide is an even scarier combination to fathom.

So, what do you do about it? First, you must always keep it in your mind that recovery is possible. Many people have the story to prove it and are willing to help you help yourself or someone close to you. It’s much easier, or even sometimes a necessity, to not fight this alone. If you need someone to just to talk to, you could check out 12-step meetings or other similar free support groups.

Next, look into “Dual Diagnosis” treatment. It may be necessary to go the inpatient route if the threat of suicide is great enough. It’s also crucial to find a place to recover that has experience treating people with addiction and suicide attempts or thoughts. Treating one without the other can ultimately lead to relapse on one or both behaviors.

It doesn’t make sense to go a dentist who doesn’t know how to treat both tooth decay and correlating gum disease, so the same mentality must be applied when seeking help for diseases of the body and mind.

Reach Out for Help Now and Find Freedom From Addiction and Suicidal Thoughts

It’s important to never give up. It may sound cliche, but it does get better. If you’re ready to end this vicious cycle and get help for yourself or someone close to you, we’re ready to help. Suicide and addiction don’t have to rule your thoughts and ultimately, your life. Call Dream Center for Recovery at 1-877-978-3148 to take that first step and get on started on your path.