Substance Abuse – One of the Leading Causes of Suicide

Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States.  In fact, a suicide occurs every 16 minutes, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths per year (SAMSHA).

Sadly, approximately 5% of adults in the US have attempted suicide (Psychiatric Times).  In many cases depression is the main cause of suicide.  However, substance abuse is running a close second.

In one study, 85% of people who were taken to the Emergency Room for substance-related suicide attempts, were admitted to a hospital or healthcare facility.  One-third of these patients tested positive for alcohol use, 1/4 tested positive for illicit drugs, while others showed a combination of alcohol and drugs.

People who abuse alcohol or drugs are almost six times more likely to attempt suicide than those who don’t have a substance abuse problem (Psychiatric Times).  It’s important to note some of the risk factors that when combined with substance abuse puts a person at a greater risk of committing suicide:

  • Past suicide attempts
  • Depressed mood
  • Years of substance abuse
  • Users of opiates, cocaine and sedatives
  • Frequent drinking binges
  • Combination of alcohol and drug abuse
  • Family violence
  • Firearms in the home

To possibly help reduce the risk of someone who struggles with substance abuse turning to suicide, there needs to be better collaboration between the mental health field and the substance abuse professionals.

Those in mental health need a clearer understanding of substance abuse issues and disorders that occur as a result of substance abuse.  The substance abuse professionals need more awareness of t he risks and signs of suicide.  Rather than working in isolation and attempting to treat a person, the two need to join forces.

In addition, we need to help educate our family and friends.

If someone close to us suffers from depression, then we need to help him understand that if he chooses to use alcohol or drugs, it could put him at risk for suicide.  For a friend who struggles with substance abuse, we need to let her know the risk factors of suicide and that substance abuse can heighten these risks.

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