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How Addiction Can Increase the Risk of Suicide

June 27, 2021
Reviewed by: Rajnandini Rathod

Substance abusers are at higher risk of suicidal tendencies and suicide. Studies show that people who committed suicide in 2009, 33% had consumed alcohol, 23% had taken anti-depressants, and 21% were on prescription or hard drugs. Approximate 70% of people had consumed at least 1 type of substance, and 25% had taken more than 1.

Suicide due to alcohol and the availability of firearms is among the biggest causes of suicide. Substance abusers are at much risk of killing themselves, especially if they have suicidal tendencies. Statistics show that more men than women commit suicide.

It doesn’t mean that all alcohol and substance abusers will attempt suicide.

Stages of Suicide

Sudden heavy/unusual drinking could be a warning sign. A substance abuser with symptoms of depression is at most risk for committing suicide. Alcohol is a depressant, and most people thinking of killing themselves don’t ask for help but might show signs that they are thinking of committing suicide. 

There are 3 stages of suicide.

  1. Considering suicide is the initial stage when a person has suicidal tendencies. The emotion and thought that a person wants to kill themselves can occur a few times.
  2. The thought sticks in their head, and they start to wonder how to commit the act. Which method they’ll use and how and when to commit suicide.
  3. The third stage is when the person has decided and is ready to complete the act.

Perpetual sadness or depression plays a vital role in developing suicidal tendencies. Substance abuse can be a way to self-medicate, and suicide is the biggest cause of death among addicts.

Influence of Different Substances on Suicidal Tendencies

The biggest reason for suicides is mood disorders, such as Depression. 2nd is by alcohol and substance abuse. Alcohol and substance abusers are usually depressed.

Many people have social and financial problems. People who drink in large quantities or abuse drugs act on their impulses and indulge in risky behaviours. These behaviours can result in self-harming tendencies. Such actions may also lead to isolation from loved ones.

They can become depressed and attempt suicide due to events that occurred when drunk or high. A large number of people also overdose due to alcohol and substance abuse that causes accidental death.

Opioid deaths have doubled in the last 15 years, and prescribed opioid use has increased deaths due to overdose.

Mental Illness and Addiction Increase the Risk of Suicide

People are at high risk of killing themselves if they have a mental illness, such as Depression and Bipolar Disorder. It becomes much worse when alcohol and substance abuse is added to the equation. Psychiatric diseases, combined with alcohol and substance abuse, cause the most suicides. 90% of people who died due to suicide in the 20th century had a mental illness.

A study conducted to find the risk of suicide for people with depression and substance dependence found that 34.1% of patients had attempted suicide at least once in their life. Out of these, 33.2% had previous-onset major depression, 51 (24.9%) had significant depression during abstinence, and 52 (25.4%) had substance-induced major depression.

How to Cope And Form Strategies to Manage Suicidal Thoughts

  • Talking to a loved one is helpful if the person has suicidal thoughts. It’s not easy to manage suicidal thoughts without help. The person should speak to a mental health professional if they feel unable to open up to their family or friends. The law states that mental health professionals can’t admit them to a hospital without their consent. The psychologist will help them with a treatment plan that works best for them.
  • The person should get rid of firearms, knives, alcohol, painkillers, and other substances that they can use to harm themselves. They should make it a point not to abuse alcohol or any substance since it can lead to self-harming or suicide attempts.
  • Every morning, they can try to say 3 things for which they’re thankful. They can think about how their loved ones would feel if they passed away. They can use a Suicide Prevention Helpline if they think they don’t have their suicidal thoughts under control.
  • They can also try to distract themself. Read a book, join a club, or meet new people. Distraction is a great way to cope if the thoughts are not intense. An empty mind can lead to chaos and turn mild suicidal thoughts into an extreme desire to commit the act.
  • Establish triggers/stressors. These are events, places, or situations that cause the person to feel suicidal. The person mustn’t use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress. The mental health professional can help them recognise their stressors and teach coping skills to manage negative emotions and suicidal thoughts.

How Can a Mental Health Professional Help

A psychiatrist or clinical psychologist will first try to diagnose a mental illness when they reach out for help. The mental health professional will conduct a few assessments and interviews to get to the root cause of suicidal thoughts. It would be best to ask any questions that come to mind since it will help both the client and their psychologist develop a treatment plan. It’s essential to feel comfortable to open up during sessions. Remember, it’s a collaborative effort between the patient and the doctor.

The psychologist will try to get to the root cause of suicidal thoughts and alcohol/substance abuse. These could be childhood trauma, hopeless future orientation, poor economic situation if they’ve had previous attempts, among others.

Once their history and diagnosis are complete, the psychologist will move on to help them become aware of their negative emotions, teach coping skills and help them build resilience. Keep in mind that suicidal thoughts may not go away even after sobriety. Depression or unresolved issues can cause suicidal thoughts to keep occurring. It helps to speak to the therapist if it persists, and working on a treatment plan that works is essential.

Final Words

Suicidal thoughts need treatment, and it’s necessary to seek help. Alcohol and substance addiction can cause people to commit suicide. Some of the coping strategies can help eliminate such thoughts for some time, but they’re not the solution. Alcohol and substance abusers should use the several 24×7 Suicide Helpline numbers and be open about their thoughts as a mental health professional can help them feel better.