The Connection Between Suicide & Substance Use

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By: SUPE Editorial Team

The average person struggling with a substance use disorder is at an increased risk of suicide. Sometimes, this risk is overlooked because the people and professionals involved in the life of an addict become solely focused on the addiction.

However, is there a proven connection between the two? Is there valuable insight into the risk factors? Are there warning signs that mirror one another? The short answer to these questions is yes, there are connections, some risk factors, and some warning signs.

This article will explore these questions while providing valuable insight to help you and your family.

What is the Connection Between Addiction & Suicide?

The connection may seem logical, but it is important to note that not everyone struggling with addiction becomes suicidal, and countless people without substance use disorders die of suicide.

Both suicidality and addiction share a desire to escape from pain and distress. For example, someone may use drugs or alcohol to cope with physical or emotional pain or trauma. Some individuals contemplate suicide to escape that same physical or emotional pain or trauma.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. Suicidal ideation may have a person battling addiction, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, chronic illness, a history of abuse, divorce, debt, and financial problems.

Links to Consider

  • Combining drugs and alcohol changes behavior and mood. Alcohol and drugs lower inhibitions, worsen mental health problems, create behavioral issues, and increase suicidal ideation.
  • Drug abuse by itself, whether with licit or illicit substances, causes brain damage and drastically impairs judgment. Using drugs interrupts brain signals that manage impulse control or behavior. This can increase suicide ideation as thoughts of suicide increase.
  • Medical problems, such as chronic pain, can create suicide ideation and addiction. Opioid addiction is a severe problem and has been linked as an underlying cause of suicide. Chronic pain also drives people to think about suicide.
  • The social stigma surrounding mental health issues and addiction increases distress and feelings of hopelessness among many people, creating suicidal thoughts. Someone who is constantly made to feel shame by an individual or society will think about suicide.

Do Signs Mirror One Another?

Absolutely, someone addicted to drugs may become isolated and hopeless and speak about having no purpose in life. Drugs and alcohol offer temporary relief or escape from any problem in life.

However, it then creates significant mental health and physical problems, which then escalate underlying mental health issues. It becomes a vicious circle. The warning signs are pretty similar. The person may speak about drinking themselves into an early grave or joking about being one hit away from an overdose.

Their behavior may become so reckless they become injured constantly and seem like they are searching for ways to get hurt.

It is essential not to overlook any signs and not become focused on one or the other but to look at the entire picture. Someone could very well be struggling with suicide ideation and not be addicted to drugs. In contrast, a person could be addicted to drugs or alcohol and constantly contemplating suicide.

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