Written by Melissa Howard:
The Sad Relationship of Substance Abuse and Suicide
When you hear about the health risks of substance abuse, you often think of impaired driving, long-term health effects, and overdosing.
However, there is another huge risk associated with substance abuse – suicide.
According to Psychology Today, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US.
While the exact cause of suicide is almost never clear-cut, depression and other mood-disorders are generally considered the number-one risk factor for suicide.
But, alcohol and drug abuse are also considered to be a very close second.
Plus, substance abuse also makes someone more likely to experience depression or another mood disorder.
In fact, this happens so often that doctors have coined the term dual diagnosis to describe it.
Scientists believe that the two often go hand in hand for a number of reasons.
Why Do Substance Abuse and Suicide Occur Together?
There are many reasons that substance abuse and suicide commonly occur together.
Firstly, when under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, a person’s inhibitions are usually let go, and they might take more risks than usual.
This can lead to suicide.
Secondly, as we’ve discussed earlier, substance abuse also increases your risk for depression.
According to ABC News, this is particularly because certain drugs can directly affect the brain and cause depression.
Even drugs that elevate mood do so only temporarily, and can cause the individual to crash into a depressed state once the drug wears off.
Just like many of us commonly get tired after eating a lot of sugar, drugs can cause a crash once their effects wear off.
Thirdly, substance abuse increases your likelihood of financial and relationship difficulties.
These difficulties can lead to a hopeless state, and eventually, suicide.
All of these problems combined cause an individual who is abusing substances to also be at a higher risk for suicide.
Often, the longer someone uses drugs or alcohol, the more these factors commonly show up in their life.
For example, when they first begin using, they might only experience a loss of inhibition.
But, as time goes on, they are likely to also experience a financial or relationship crisis.
Their drug or drink of choice might also begin to affect their brain chemistry the longer they use it.
All these factors can pile up over time and cause the sad outcome of suicide.
What Can You Do to Help?
If you or someone you know is addicted to a substance, there are a number of things you can do to prevent yourself or your loved one from falling victim to suicide.
Most importantly, if you or your loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it is important to get them to a doctor right away.
Often, suicide will happen even when the person appears to be getting better.
Even if you think they have moved past their suicidal thoughts, you need to get them seen by a professional as soon as possible.
If no one is available, consider taking them directly to the ER.
Once they have had emergency help and been evaluated, it is likely that they will be placed in a treatment program.
Whether they get outpatient or inpatient care will be determined by an evaluator. To treat their substance abuse, they could begin a wide range of programs.
It is important that you encourage and support their recovery.
The most common of these is a 12-step program.
This type of program includes Alcoholics Anonymous, but there are also many other programs for those who are addicted to other substances.
Of course, there are other programs as well, such as holistic programs.
These seek to treat the whole body, including the mental and spiritual selves.
Sadly, substance abuse and suicide are tightly linked together.
But, by seeking professional help or encouraging those who need help to get it, you can take major steps toward decreasing your or your loved one’s risk of suicide.