As of 2018, national studies reported by the CDC show that half of all states have seen a greater than 30% increase in suicide since 1999. Is there a link between addiction and suicide? How many of these deaths were related to substance use or abuse?
The American Journal of Psychiatry breaks down the following statistics:
- 22% of people who committed suicide were intoxicated with alcohol.
- 20% of suicides involved opiate use.
- Over 10% were linked to marijuana.
- Cocaine and amphetamines were present in a respective 4.6% and 3.4% of suicide victims.
In all, they calculated that alcohol dependence is associated with a ten-times greater risk of suicide, while drug use results in a fourteen-times greater risk of suicide when compared to the general population.
Meanwhile, the number of annual deaths from both suicide and overdose is shocking. Total suicides across the United States have skyrocketed to 44,193 each year as of 2018, while 67,367 people died from a drug overdose.
From the above statistics, it’s easy to understand how much overlap there may be between addiction and suicide. In fact, researchers think that up to 30% of fatal opioid overdoses may have actually been successful suicide attempts.
Who Has the Greatest Risk of Suicide Among Substance Users?
Alcohol abuse, opioid addiction, and suicide are practically inseparable when it comes to analyzing rates of comorbidity:
- A staggering 16.2% of men who have depression and engage in heavy alcohol use will attempt to commit suicide.
- The degree of alcohol use makes a difference. Binge drinkers or heavy drinkers have a five times higher rate of suicide than social or casual drinkers.
- Alcohol use disorder and bipolar disorder paint an even bleaker picture, where 21% – 42% of people with these comorbidities will attempt suicide at some point in their lives.
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Why are Addiction and Suicide so Closely Related?
People who have a substance use disorder have more than double the usual rate of anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Not only that, but half of the people who struggle with a mental illness will also have a substance abuse disorder at one point during their lifetimes. Though it is often unclear which comes first – the mood disorder or the substance abuse – it is clear that the two often go hand in hand. That strong correlation of mood disorders with addiction may be at least part of the reason there is a high suicide rate of people in this group.
The temptation is often to assume that the mental health condition becomes exacerbated by the use of drugs or alcohol, and the combination of both multiplies the risk of suicide. Interestingly, however, the mood disorder isn’t always to blame. Even people who don’t have underlying mental health conditions appear more likely to attempt or commit suicide if they use drugs or abuse alcohol.
The American Journal of Psychiatry attempts to explain this phenomenon: “Acute and chronic drug abuse may impair judgment, weaken impulse control, and interrupt neurotransmitter pathways, leading to suicidal tendencies through disinhibition.”
Don’t Face This Alarming Risk of Addiction and Suicide Alone
Medication, therapy, addiction treatment, or some combination of all three can help reduce the rate of suicide. Even if you don’t consider yourself at risk for suicide, seeking treatment to help with your addiction or mental health disorder can ease your suffering and clear a path for you to recover more comfortably than fighting your way through the thick of it on your own.
If you’re not sure whether you may be struggling with addiction or a mood disorder, turn to our Dual Diagnosis experts at Ocean Hills Recovery. Together, we can assess your situation, determine the best course of action, and formulate a treatment plan that will address both conditions simultaneously. Our expert team understands the delicacy of treating two comorbid conditions at once, and we can help guide you through the process in the most effective way possible.
Call us today or use our online contact form to start untangling the webs of addiction and mental health struggles. Take the first step toward feeling better today.
 https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/suicide/index.html  https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ajp-rj.2018.130603  https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates  https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/director/messages/2019/suicide-deaths-are-a-major-component-of-the-opioid-crisis-that-must-be-addressed.shtml
About the author:
Greg opened his home and heart to alcoholics and addicts in 2003. He is a Certified Addictions Treatment Counselor (CATCI). Starting in 2009 Greg has fostered the growth of Ocean Hills Recovery into one of the most respected and effective treatment centers in the area and has been working with people with addictions since March of 2001. Greg believes in a holistic approach to recovery. His focus is on drug alcohol addiction treatment with a combination of 12 Step work, therapy and counseling, and the rejuvenation of the body through healthful eating and exercise. He has designed his program to foster a family-like atmosphere and believes that people in recovery are just beginning their lives. He encourages the people he works with to learn to enjoy life in sobriety. Greg is married to Nicole; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.