Suicide Prevention Day: Suicide and Addiction

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals ages 10-34.  The rate of suicide has increased 35% since 1999. (National Institute of Mental Health). The Centers for Disease Control reports that thoughts of suicide have nearly doubled during the ongoing pandemic.

Link to Addiction

There is a direct link between substance abuse and suicide. People with substance use disorders are about six times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. (Psychology Today, February 20, 2014)

Opioid use poses the highest risk. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that “people who suffer from substance use disorders involving prescription opioids may be twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who do not misuse prescription opioids. Some estimate that up to 30% of fatal opioid overdoses may be intentional as a means of suicide.

Alcohol abuse is also linked to the rate of suicide.  An article in Psychological Medicine said even in the short-term, acute alcohol use may be associated with a greater number of suicide attempts. It estimates that there is nearly 7 times increase in the likelihood of a suicide attempt in those drinking compared to those who did not drink alcohol.

The Next Door provides appropriate addiction treatment services in light of this substantial link.

We know the women who walk through our doors for addiction treatment also are at a statistically higher risk for mental illness and suicide. This is one of the top reasons that we employ trauma-informed therapists, so they can help women with co-occurring disorders develop coping skills and heal from addiction and mental illness.

Relationship to Childhood Trauma

Trauma-informed therapy is a necessity at The Next Door because both substance abuse and suicide can be linked to childhood trauma – or ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) such as child abuse, death of a parent, or a parent with substance use disorder.

Individuals who score high on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Questionnaire are five times more likely to become alcoholics, and up to 46 times more likely to inject drugs. (The Kaiser Permanente and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.)  Most of these users simply lack coping methods to deal with the childhood trauma and learn to numb the pain with substance abuse. This lack of coping skills is also a predictor of suicidal behavior.

“People with histories of childhood trauma often develop difficulties with managing negative emotion, coping with stress, and maintaining optimism in the face of life stressors,” Lisa Cohen, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, “Impulsivity is a risk factor for all types of reckless behavior, including suicidal behavior,” she added.

Warning Signs for Suicide

The National Institute of Mental Health lists warning signs you can look out for to help someone who is considering suicide. Some of these include:

  • An increase in drug/alcohol use.
  • Change in sleep and eating habits.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or empty.
  • Increase in anxiety and agitation.
  • Exhibiting extreme mood swings.
  • Making a will and giving away personal items.
  • Reckless or impulsive behaviors such as risky driving.
  • Researching a plan for suicide or acquiring the means to harm oneself (firearms, pills, etc.).
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Talking about wanting to die.
How to seek help

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency and may be at risk for suicide, help is available 24 hours a day seven days a  week at 855-CRISIS  (855-274-7471) or Text “TN” to 741-741.

If you know a woman who needs not only mental health help but addiction treatment services, contact The Next Door at 1-855-TND-HOPE (863-4673).

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