With the opioid crisis in full swing and fatal overdoses at an all-time high, most people know that addiction can be deadly. There is a high probability that abusing substances like prescription painkillers, cocaine, crystal meth, or heroin can lead to an accidental overdose. But, substance use disorder can also play a critical role in someone’s own self-inflicted death.
Quite often, substance abuse and suicide go hand-in-hand. It is not uncommon for someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder to lose their battle by ending their own life. Suicide rates are at an all-time high. We MUST take action.
The Very Difficult Conversation We Should Be Having
Suicide is not a favorite topic for most people. And, rightfully so. However; we should discuss the relationship between addiction and suicide.
At New Directions for Women, we are in the business of saving lives and helping the women we serve experience personal transformation. We treat women of all ages, pregnant women, and women with children. We feel that there has never been a more critical time to talk about this issue.
Addiction affects women very profoundly. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, learning more about suicide could significantly reduce the likelihood of you ending your own life. We want you to get help. So, let’s have the uncomfortable conversation about suicide and substance use.
Some Statistics That Help Put the Problem Into Perspective
First, we want to provide you with some facts. Many people feel that no one would understand their suicidal ideations. For this reason, many people keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. This is a mistake. No one should have to carry this heavy burden alone.
The truth is, MOST people who have a drug or alcohol problem consider ending their own life. And, even people who do not have a substance abuse disorder think about it. And, sadly, tens of thousands of Americans take their own lives every year.
To give you some insight into how common this devastating problem is, here are some shocking statistics, provided by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Suicide is the 10^th^ leading cause of death in the United States
- Every day, approximately 123 Americans die by suicide
- Tragically, one suicide death occurs every 12 minutes in the United States
- Suicide takes the lives of more than 45, 000 Americans every year
- About 250,000 Americans become suicide survivors every year
- About 4 percent of all adults in the U.S. have had serious thoughts about suicide in the past year
Now, let’s take a look at the relationship between substance abuse and suicide:
- In approximately 20 percent of all suicides, opioids are involved, including street heroin and prescription painkillers like Oxycodone
- Alcohol intoxication is present in about 40 percent of all suicide attempts
- Those who are dependent on alcohol are 10 times more likely to commit suicide than those who do not drink or drink moderately
- Those who inject drugs are 14 times more likely to commit suicide than those who are not
- The number of emergency department visits for drug-related suicide attempts increased 51 percent overall from 2005 to 2011 (the most current data available)
These are just a few of the MANY statistics available on the prevalence of suicide in America. These stats demonstrate that suicide is more common than you might think – ESPECIALLY among those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Substance Abuse Issues Can Quickly Lead to Thoughts of Suicide or Suicide Attempts
When talking about suicide and substance abuse, it is important to understand the link between the two. There are some obvious factors that demonstrate how a substance use disorder can lead to suicidal tendencies.
Addiction puts women on the fast track to the following experiences:
- Extreme depression
- Physical withdrawal
- Financial devastation
- Isolation and lack of social support
- An all-consuming feeling of hopelessness
- A sense of desperation
- A lack of resources
- Legal troubles
- Loss or lack of employment
- Insufficient coping skills
- Shame and guilt
- Broken relationships
- Mental health issues
- Distorted and irrational thinking
These are just a few consequences that accompany addiction. And, they show up in clusters. For instance, when someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol AND experiences extreme depression AND financial devastation AND has insufficient coping skills, it can be a recipe for disaster.
This means there is no one cause of suicide. When someone attempts to end their own life, it is because they have become overwhelmed by numerous problems.
The issues caused by a substance use disorder quickly compound. When this happens, an addicted person can feel completely hopeless that things will ever change for the better. And, they feel completely helpless to do anything about their situation.
This often leads to desperation. The mindset becomes, “Drastic times call for drastic measures.” After a while, suicide starts to sound like a really great idea.
Suicide Often Masks Itself as the Solution to a Substance Use Disorder
Most suicide survivors report that they really didn’t want to die – they just wanted the absence of pain. Death can feel like the only solution to a never-ending stream of mental anguish, emotional torment, and spiritual emptiness. When hope ceases to exist, someone who is addicted will often attempt to take their own life.
This is tragic.
The solution to addiction is not suicide. The solution is effective, life-changing addiction treatment services. This may include a medical detox, residential services, and/or an intensive outpatient program.
If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and you are having thoughts of suicide, you need a healthy support system to get you through this difficult time.
Reach Out for Help – You Will Be Glad You Did
Many people feel too ashamed to talk about suicidal thoughts. They feel guilty for thinking about ending their own life. Plus, they often fall into the trap of believing that sharing their dark thoughts would be a “burden” to their families.
You have nothing to be ashamed of. You will not be judged for reaching out for help. You will be amazed at how many people will rally support so you can reclaim your life and be restored to sanity.
Suicide does not deliver the absence of pain. It only passes the pain on to someone else. Friends, family members, and loved ones are left behind to mourn the loss of their beloved. And, sadly, they are doomed to live the rest of their life wondering what they could have done to bring about a different outcome.
Things may seem bleak. It may be dark where you are. You might feel hopeless. But, be encouraged! There is help available. You absolutely CAN find your way out of the place you are in and go on to live an amazing life. Don’t give up!
Here is a quick list of the many resources available to help you if you are thinking about suicide:
And, of course, we are available to answer any questions about addiction, recovery, and substance use disorder treatment. If you need help, we are here. Call now.