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The Connection Between Addiction and Suicide

The Connection Between Addiction and Suicide

Suicide is one of the main dangers of an addiction to drugs or alcohol. The risks of suicide are much higher if you have an addiction compared to someone who doesn’t. There are various factors involved when it comes to addiction and suicide. The substance abuse itself increases the likelihood of suicide and the substance of choice can be used to carry out the suicide. While numerous scientific studies have taken place about the close connection addiction and suicide have, it tends to be overlooked often. If you’re addicted to a dangerous substance, there’s up to a 45% chance that you’ll attempt suicide. Yet, only 11% of those addicted will receive treatment. Many people that are addicted and at risk of attempting suicide simply don’t ask for the help they need because they feel ashamed. Even if they were to ask for help, the training for suicide prevention is lacking.

Statistics about Addiction and Suicide in the United States

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that over 39,000 people commit suicide every year, that’s 108 people per day. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • While depression and other mood disorders, like bi-polar disease, is the number one cause for suicides, alcohol and drug abuse is second.
  • A critical risk factor when it comes to suicide is access to lethal means which is certain drugs and excessive alcohol abuse.
  • Alcohol was a factor in 1/3 of suicides reported throughout 16 States.
  • Autopsies show that one in three suicides are people who were under the influence of drugs when they died.
  • In 2011, there was a 51% increase in drug-related suicide attempts.
  • Research shows the strongest predictor of suicide is due to alcohol addiction and not a mental disorder or psychiatric diagnosis.
  • Those who suffer from addiction or substance abuse disorders are six times more at risk of committing suicide than the general population.
  • The third-leading form of suicide is poisoning and 75% of the poison used for suicide is a drug.

Alleviating Depression with Substance Abuse

The statistics show that suicide is one of the tragic fallouts of addiction and a hidden risk nobody talks about. When you’re heavily influenced from drugs or alcohol, you lose your inhibitions and take illogical risks. Not only that but severe depression can cause you to care less about the outcome of your safety. There’s a strong connection between people with depression that choose to abuse drugs or alcohol to alleviate their feelings associated with their condition. Research shows that without a doubt, those with addictions are two to four times more likely to become deeply depressed. For those with depression, a substance may seemingly bring you relief for a little while but the problems can exacerbate as time goes by. Your addiction may have crept up on you and the day you decide you’re going to stop using the substance, your original feelings come back.

The Stigma of Addiction Can Cause Risk of Suicide

When the reality of your addiction catches up, you may feel extreme loneliness. The stigma in society doesn’t help as it makes you feel segregated from people. When you’ve allowed addiction to take over your whole life, you may find it difficult to see the value in yourself. If you do seek help, the obstacles to get the help you need may feel insurmountable. When people don’t understand what you’re going through, they may shame blame you. The stigma on addiction can also be connected to suicide as you can feel segregated from others. When you are finally asking for help, the last thing you need is judgement. What you need more than anything is support. Part of addiction is feeling confused and ashamed and when people exasperate that feeling in you, hopelessness may ensue. Everybody wants to belong and when everything else has been taken from you, blame may be the last straw.

Understanding the Addiction Cycle

The addiction cycle is a terrifying, defeating and utterly life destroying scenario. It is a loss of self and when you lose yourself, there seems to be little left to live for. There is nothing else to define you but the fact you’re an addict. Your life revolves around somehow getting your substance, using it and then withdrawing from it. The chemistry and physiology of the brain changes, which makes addiction a neurological disorder. Stages of addiction are a frustrating spin cycle that comes with varying emotions. It can cause you to simply give up when your life revolves around this frame of mind.

  • Pain and frustration – looking for substance to relieve these feelings
  • Fantasizing – Fixating on using your substance of choice
  • Using – Taking the substance to relieve the pain/frustration
  • No control – Unable to control how much you use and when
  • Dissatisfaction – Feeling ashamed, guilty and remorseful about substance abuse
  • Promising to stop – A feelings of conviction that you’ll never use again.

The addiction becomes so all encompassing that to make it through, you would need an intervention. If you’ve pushed everyone away, there may not be anyone left to help you recover. When this occurs, the reality is you will probably use until you die from substance abuse. This can be from overdosing, intentional suicide, or a drug related accident.

The Rock Bottom Effect of Addiction

Addiction is a slow decline to rock bottom and recovery is a long, treacherous healing process. The actions you take while addicted to substances can cause a mountain of problems that are very real and very painful. Your mistakes you’ve made on top of the original problems you tried to cover up are hard to cope with. The life changes that occur while in the midst of addiction, or even recovery, may be too much emotional struggle to deal with. Divorce, loss of career or loved ones, and other life changes that occur because of addiction can lead to emotional problems. This is where suicide can feel like the only answer for some. Although drugs may seem to help in the short term, they exacerbate problems over time. The longer you’re addicted to substances, the more you stand to lose. This makes it harder to want recovery for yourself. You are less likely to look to heal yourself as you have compounded problems and perhaps very little hope.

Specific Addictions Relate to Suicidal Tendencies

Abusing depressants like alcohol or sedatives, like Carfentanil, can trigger symptoms of depression and further increase the risk of suicide. The consequences you face from your addictions is enough to make the general population consider suicide. With the compounded effects of a depressant, you’re even further at risk. When it feels like there’s nothing left to lose and no way of coping with life, the two common options in a situation are to use drugs again or commit suicide.

Addiction on Your Brain and How It Can Lead to Suicide

Drugs affect the brain by tapping into the communication system. This interferes with the way neurons process information. This can lead to messages that would never naturally be transmitted through the brain. The toxic effects of substance addiction can cause a change of mood and judgment. The disruption of abuse or addiction to substances can change the way you think and make choices. You don’t make good choices and lose all sense of reason. This can lead to hurting yourself without the knowledge that it’s happening. Jumping off a building because you think you’re invincible is one extreme case of this.

The Slow Suicide of Addiction

Some experts consider the slow type of suicide being carried out by continuing to take substances with the knowledge that you will eventually die. Every time you use, you know the risks but you continue. You have probably tried to withdraw and when you failed, it was another nail in the coffin. Given enough time of using dangerous substances that manipulate your brain and break down your organs, you will lose everything that matters. You may turn to a quick suicide at this point or just continue down the path with hopes that death will ensue.

The Withdrawal of Addiction Can Lead to Suicide

Even when you’ve decided to give up your addiction, you’re still at risk of thinking,  and potentially carrying out suicidal thoughts. One of the main side effects of withdrawal from an addiction is depression. Whether it’s the shameful emotions you feel or the withdrawal pain itself, the risk can be high. The danger of withdrawal is especially high if you’ve suffered from depressive thoughts and used substances to numb your pain. The feelings can come back two-fold, bringing suicidal thoughts with it. Withdrawal depression can evoke feelings that trigger further use of alcohol or drugs. Going “cold turkey” with any substance can cause reckless use of drugs and there’s a higher risk of overdoing it. During withdrawal, you may feel extreme shame or guilt. If you relapse, suicidal thoughts may occur due to a feeling of failure and hopelessness. While withdrawal from some substances may cause you to feel depressed or ill, they aren’t directly considered dangerous. There are exceptions such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opiates, which require professional medical assistance like a rehab clinic. Alcohol withdrawal can cause delirium, diarrhea and extreme nausea which needs to be treated immediately. This is usually carried out with medically-assisted detox. Rapid detoxification of heroin or other opioids can cause severe depression that leads to a hopeless feeling, and suicide sometimes seems like the only answer.

Treating Addiction to Prevent Suicide

Besides the obvious benefits of addiction treatment, you also reduce the risk of suicide when you carry out your recovery correctly. Primary care physicians know how to identify someone with suicidal tendencies and with that knowledge, they are better able to monitor and prevent it. There are difficult questions that may need to be asked to get the right prognosis but this is part of the healing process. You will need support and they are equipped to give that to you as you fight your addiction and thoughts of suicide. If possible, a health care provider will collaborate with your loved ones and get you on a recovery plan that will allow you to feel hope for your future. With promising medications and therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy, suicide attempts related to addiction are being reduced substantially.