Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Over 47,000 people took their own lives in 2017, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the last year a full set of statistics are available regarding suicide. There are an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts in the country annually. 11 million Americans will make a serious suicide attempt at some juncture in their lifetimes. Drug abuse or addiction is an underlying cause or contributing factor to suicides and attempted suicides in a considerable number of instances.
Essential Statistics About Drug Abuse or Addiction and Suicide
In order to have a better comprehension of the interconnection between drug abuse or addiction and suicide, an understanding of some essential suicide facts and statistics is necessary. Drug abuse or addiction is one of the most common factors that increase an individual’s risk for suicide, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Only bipolar disorder and depression are more frequent increases in suicidal risk.
In addition to being an underlying factor leading to a person attempting suicide in the first instance, one drug, in particular, is commonly used by an individual when he or she attempts to take his or her life. Approximately one-third of all successful suicides in involve individuals that have ingested a significant amount of alcohol before the act of taking their lives. Moreover, 33 percent of this group of individuals are deemed legally drunk at the time of their deaths.
Women are approximately 4-times more likely to use drugs as a means of taking their lives when contrasted with the male population. White men are about 2-times more likely to use drugs as a means of suicide when compared with black males.
The Use of Drugs to Commit Suicide
Drugs are utilized as a means of committing suicide in about 20 percent of cases involving people between the ages of 40 to 64. The use of drugs as a means of committing suicide is lower among younger people.
Of the individuals that use drugs as a means of suicide, about 70 percent use a single mind-altering substance to take their lives. In about 80 percent of these cases, the single substance used as a means of suicide is acetaminophen as well as other nonprescription medications. Other types of mind-altering substances used as a means of suicide include illegal street drugs, prescription medications, and alcohol.
Alcohol is not commonly the sole substance used to commit suicide. With that said, alcohol is used in combination with another mind-altering substance in a considerable percentage of suicides in the United State and in some other countries that world over.
In addition, alcohol commonly is an element of suicides by other means beyond drugs. For example, a considerable percentage of people who take their lives in a number of other ways prepare for the process by ingesting what can be a considerable amount of alcohol. This includes the consumption of alcohol in advance of committing suicide by:
- Knife or other blades
Substance Abuse or Addiction as a Precursor to Depression and Other Mental Health Disorders
A good number of cases of individuals suffering from depression and some other mental health disorders involve substance abuse or addiction as a precursor to a mental health condition. As will be discussed in a moment, this course of the development of afflictions results in what is called a dual diagnosis.
In these situations, an individual doesn’t suffer from a serious mental health condition before he or she starts using mind-altering substances. Over time, the use or abuse of certain drugs can lead to addiction. In addition, the use or abuse of certain mind-altering substances can lead to other disorders and conditions. These include a broad spectrum of different types of physical, emotional, or mental health issues or conditions.
As these associated conditions worsen, a person may end up suffering from suicidal ideations. Depression provides an illustrative example. A person who abuses or becomes dependent upon a mind-altering substance can end up suffering from chronic, profound depression. Over time, a person’s depression can advance to a state that he or she begins to face suicidal ideations.
Self-Medication and Substance Abuse or Addiction
Drug abuse or addiction can arise from the use of mind-altering substances to self-medicate the symptoms of other illnesses, conditions, disorders, or problems. The use of certain mind-altering substances can provide relief from symptoms of certain conditions in a superficial manner for a short, fleeting period of time.
The reality is that the mind-altering substances people may utilize to self-medicate can actually work to inflame the condition individuals are attempting to “treat.” For example, individuals who utilize certain drugs, including alcohol, as a means of dealing with depression are actually ingesting a depressant. As their conditions worsen because of drug use, abuse, or addiction, they can end up at a juncture at which they face suicidal ideations.
Dual Diagnosis and Treatment for Substance Abuse or Addition and Mental Health Condition
A significant percentage of individuals in need of substance abuse or addiction treatment have what technically is known as a dual diagnosis. The technical definition of dual diagnosis is “the condition of suffering from a mental illness and a comorbid substance abuse (or addiction) problem.” In layperson’s term, a person who receives a dual diagnosis requires comprehensive treatment to address both a substance abuse or addiction issue as well as treatment to deal with a mental health condition as well. A growing number of drug addiction rehabilitation facilities and programs now include a dual diagnosis element in their overall treatment protocols.
A better understanding of the interconnection between drug abuse or addiction, various mental health conditions or disorders, and suicidal ideations is considered a crucial step to preventing suicide on a broader scale. There is an increasing number of substance abuse and addiction therapists and counselors that focus their professional efforts on addressing these compelling and crucial interconnections.