Is There a Link Between Substance Abuse and Suicide?
October 18, 2019
One reason why substance use disorder is so easy to fall into and so difficult to escape is its circular nature.
People use alcohol and drugs in order to numb certain negative feelings or escape certain negative aspects of their lives. Over time, however, the negative effects of substance abuse—the financial drain, the strain on personal relationships, the physical and mental demands—can themselves become the greatest life negatives, requiring greater use of drugs and alcohol to escape.
The worst-case result of this circular behavior is the abuser believing that life is no longer worth living. That’s when suicide feels like a viable option.
Facts about Substance Abuse and Suicide Risk
Whatever one chooses to think about substance abuse and its relationship with suicidal behavior, it is hard to refute these scientific findings:
– People diagnosed with a substance use disorder are almost six times more likely to report a suicide attempt than those without a substance use disorder.
– Studies of individuals undergoing drug and alcohol treatment suggest that past suicide attempts are common.
– Recent evidence on veterans and active military personnel suggests that men living with a substance use disorder are approximately two to three times more likely to die by suicide than those without substance use disorders. Among female veterans, a substance use disorder makes the risk of suicide over six times likelier.
What to Look For
It should be noted that most people with substance use-related problems do not die by suicide. It is therefore important to try and identify those addicts whose behaviors may present a higher-than-normal suicide risk.
For instance, older men with substance use disorders are at greater risk for death by suicide than younger men. However, studies that examine risk factors among people who committed suicide suggest that substance abuse occurs more frequently among younger people.
Recent studies suggest that abusers of certain substances—including opiates, cocaine, and sedatives—can present a noticeably higher risk of suicide than those abusing other drugs.
Depression shows a common risk factor for suicidal behaviors in the general population, and it also predicts a greater likelihood of suicide among those living with a co-occurring substance use disorder. Of course, past suicide attempts are a strong risk factor for future suicidal behaviors in those with substance use disorders. Also, the severity of a substance use disorders—how long one has been using—might be another indicator of future suicidal behavior.
Studies have suggested that addicts often show other risk factors for suicide. Substance abuse, after all, is common among impulsive people, and among those who engage in high-risk behaviors. Also, addicts are likely to have social or financial problems—two outside influencers that can contribute to suicidal behavior.
Getting Help Today
At JourneyPure Knoxville, we understand what you are experiencing and want to help. Get in touch with us right now to learn more about what to expect at our intensive outpatient program and how you can get started on the path to recovery.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.