Does Substance Abuse Increase the Risk for Suicide?


Does Substance Abuse Increase the Risk for Suicide?

About 20 million Americans suffer from substance abuse disorder, while many others think of self-harm or suicide. Unfortunately, a high number of people commit suicide every year – making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Preventing either is challenging but not entirely impossible.

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is medical terminology that describes a pattern of taking a substance like a drug that triggers distress or problematic behavior. Think of missing school or work or taking something during an unsafe situation, like driving a car. It may lead to legal trouble or continual use that ruins family relationships, friendships, or both. Substance abuse, a known medical brain disorder, refers to the misuse of illegal substances or certain legal substances.

Know the Symptoms

  • Tolerance of the drug or the need for ever-larger quantities to get the desired result.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when you decrease or cease using the substance.
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from the after-effects.
  • Self-isolation.
  • Continued use, even though you are aware of the physical, psychological, and other problems triggered by your substance abuse.

What Causes Substance Abuse?

We don’t know exactly what causes substance abuse disorder. A person’s genes, the drug’s effect on physical and mental wellness, peer pressure, emotional suffering, environmental stressors, anxiety, and depression, can all be triggers.

Many people with substance use problems have attention deficit disorder, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, or other mental illnesses. Other potential causes? A stressful lifestyle, poor self-esteem, and seeing your parents use drugs.

Does Substance Abuse Increase the Risk for Suicide?

“A number of recent national surveys have helped shed light on the relationship between alcohol and other drug use and suicidal behavior. A review of minimum-age drinking laws and suicides among youths aged 18 to 20 found that lower minimum-age drinking laws were associated with higher youth suicide rates. In a large study following adults who drink alcohol, suicide ideation was reported among persons with depression. In another survey, persons who reported that they had made a suicide attempt during their lifetime were more likely to have had a depressive disorder, and many also have had an alcohol and/or substance abuse disorder. In a study of all non-traffic injury deaths associated with alcohol intoxication, over 20 percent were suicides.”

Risk Factors for Suicide

Research has confirmed that 46 percent of those who die by suicide have a known mental health illness. But many other things may increase the risk of someone committing suicide, including:

  • A history of suicide in your family.
  • Substance use (such as drugs) can trigger mental highs and lows that increase suicidal thoughts.
  • Intoxication. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than one-third of people who take their own lives are being influenced by alcohol at the time of their death.
  • Access to firearms and other deadly instruments.
  • A serious or long-term medical illness (i.e., depression, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder).
  • Gender. More women than men attempt suicide, but men are almost four times more likely to take their own life.
  • A history of abuse or trauma.
  • Prolonged stress, caused by illness or traumatic life experiences.
  • A recent personal loss or tragedy.

Risk Factors for Substance Abuse

  • Family history of substance use.
  • Parents that are accepting of the behavior.
  • Poor parental monitoring.
  • Lack of family support over issues such as gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Association with felonious or substance-using peers.
  • Lack of school friendships.
  • Poor academic achievement.
  • Different kinds of childhood abuse.
  • Mental health issues.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing a substance use disorder requires a complete examination and likely includes an assessment by a mental health professional or a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. Blood, urine, or other tests are utilized to assess drug use, but not as a diagnostic assessment for addiction. But they may be employed to determine treatment and recovery options.

Diagnosing the risk of suicide typically involves seeing a mental healthcare specialist for psychological screening. You’ll be asked about your personal and family history of mental illness or suicide and how they influence your symptoms.

Treatment for both may include psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, and ketamine therapy.

Final Thoughts

The link between substance abuse and the increased risk of suicide are well known, and some people may be predisposed to one or the other. But that doesn’t mean you have to succumb to either. With time and care, you can manage symptoms of both and live a happy and fulfilling life.

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