September has been designated as National Suicide Prevention Month. World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10. Although we focus on suicide prevention throughout the year, we take this opportunity in September to look at the link between addiction and suicide risk. It is particularly important to understand the causes behind suicide and how to prevent it.
A Leading Cause of Death
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the US across all age groups. In 2018, 48,344 Americans died by suicide. There were an estimated 1.4 million attempts. On average, there are 132 suicides per day.
People who abuse alcohol and/or drugs or are dependent on them, attempt suicide nearly six times more often than people who do not abuse these substances. The rate of completed suicide among addicts is 2 to 3 times higher than among males who are not addicts. Among women, the use of substances increases the risk of suicide 6.5 to 9 times that of women who are not addicts.
It’s important to note that, although there is a correlation between the disorder caused by the use of substances and suicidal behavior, a large number of addicts will never attempt suicide. However, when someone who is addicted to drugs does attempt suicide, it is usually by an overuse of drugs that is an overdose, or a combination of drugs and tablets. Even though there is a link between addiction and suicide risk, in a few cases the manner in which the suicide is attempted is not directly related to drugs.
Alcohol and substance abuse problems contribute to suicidal behavior in several ways. Persons who are dependent on substances often have a number of other risk factors for suicide. In addition to being depressed, they are also likely to have social and financial problems. Substance use and abuse can be common among persons prone to be impulsive, and among persons who engage in many types of high-risk behaviors that result in self-harm.
Another important factor when it comes to suicide attempts is the drug used. It is known that heroin and sedatives are substances with which suicide attempts suicide are most often made, while other drugs are less characteristic. Suicidal addicts tend to have certain emotional problems and behavioral problems that strongly affect their activities, primarily as impulsive reactions and the inability to control behavior.
Individuals who are addicted to drugs or alcohol may have many factors involved in their lives that challenge them. These risk factors are a combination of individual, relationship, community, and societal factors that may contribute to a suicide attempt.
Risk factors for suicide in the general population also apply to those addicted to drugs or alcohol. Research has found that older drug addicts are at higher risk for attempts and suicides than younger addicts. Previous suicide attempts represent a strong risk factor for repeated suicidal attempts. Affective disorders in general, and particularly depressed mood, are risk factors for suicidal behavior in the general population and among addicts.
Additional risk factors may include:
- Family history of suicide
- Family history of child maltreatment
- History of alcohol and substance abuse
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
- Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
- Local epidemics of suicide
- Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
- Barriers to accessing mental health treatment
- Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
- Physical illness
- Easy access to lethal methods
- Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts.
During Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, take the time to learn how to respond when someone is in a crisis and contemplating or attempting suicide. Share the information with people you know who may be experiencing addiction and suicide risk themselves.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends:
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
- If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
- If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
Contact Makana Path for Help with Your Addiction
At Makana Path, our detox and recovery services are designed to give you the gift of healing. We focus on holistic wellness with intensive healing workshops that will help you heal on a deeper level, providing true recovery from your addiction to drugs or alcohol. At Makana Path, we work with you to supercharge your recovery so you can move forward with your life. To learn more about our Intensive Healing Program, contact Makana Path today by calling 1-866-313-0978.