Drug use and addiction can have severe consequences, including health complications, problems with the legal system, job loss and difficulty carrying out personal responsibilities. In some cases, suicide and drug abuse can also be related. For example, people who are struggling with a mental illness like depression may use drugs to self-medicate, putting them at an increased risk of suicide. Suicide statistics provide information about the relationship between drug use and suicide.

Stats and Trends

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47,000 people lost their lives to suicide in 2017. This makes it the 10th-leading cause of death overall in the United States. CDC suicide statistics show it is a more common cause of death among the following age groups:

  • 15-24: Second-leading cause of death
  • 25-34: Second-leading cause of death
  • 35-44: Fourth-leading cause of death
  • 45-54: Fourth-leading cause of death

Suicide is an increasing problem in the United States, according to the CDC. From 2001 to 2017, the suicide rate rose from 10.7 to 14 suicides per 100,000 people, which is a 31% increase. Suicide is significantly more common among men, who are almost four times more likely to fall victim to suicide. Among both men and women, the suicide rate is highest for non-Hispanic American Indian/Alaskan Natives and non-Hispanic Whites.

CDC data only refers to cases in which a person suffered death as a result of intentional self-harming behavior. In addition to those who commit suicide, some people think about suicide or attempt suicide unsuccessfully. The CDC reports that 9.8 million Americans aged 18 and over seriously considered committing suicide during 2017, and 2.8 million developed a plan for suicide. Additionally, 1.3 million adults attempted suicide — among this group, one million had created a suicide plan.

Risk Factors

Numerous factors can increase the risk of suicide, including substance use. A recent analysis shows that people who have a substance use disorder are 2.04 times more likely to think about suicide, 2.49 times more likely to attempt it and 1.49 times more likely to die from it. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people who abuse drugs and alcohol tend to display several risk factors that can increase suicide risk:

  • Difficulties with social functioning
  • Financial issues
  • Impulsivity
  • High-risk behavior

Alcohol abuse may be a particular risk factor for suicide. Among alcohol-related deaths that are not the result of a motor vehicle accident, over 20% are due to suicide. A person who is having suicidal thoughts may lose inhibitions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can result in impulsive behaviors that may cause them to act out on suicidal ideation and suicide plans.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-occurring mental health conditions can be responsible for the elevated suicide rates seen in people who struggle with drug use. Experts report that depression is a major co-occurring disorder that contributes to suicidal behavior among people who abuse drugs and alcohol. A review of the research shows that anxiety and depression are likely to co-occur with both drug and alcohol abuse.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, other co-occurring conditions can increase the risk of suicide:

Personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder are also associated with suicide. These disorders can further increase the risk of suicide among people who abuse drugs. One study found that borderline personality disorder tended to co-occur with alcohol, cocaine and opioid abuse.

Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

People who are suffering from an addiction and a co-occurring mental health condition should seek addiction and mental health treatment. These programs can help them recover, develop coping strategies and reduce the risk of suicide. With effective treatment, people can heal and protect themselves from devastating consequences like suicide.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), psychological therapies can be effective in treating co-occurring substance use disorders and mental health conditions. Effective therapies and programs may include:

In addition, NIDA reports that people with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illnesses may take medications that help with their symptoms.

If you or a loved one is suffering from an addiction and co-occurring mental illness, The Recovery Village is here to help. Our caring staff members are ready to take your call help you begin the path to recovery. Contact us today to learn about programs that can work well for your situation.

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