Our news feeds lately have been filled with suicide stories, most recently and notably those of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain. While this news has received global attention (as suicide and celebrity stories do), it’s also important to note that there are many more non-famous suicide-related deaths happening simultaneously and by the minute. And they’re happening all across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, or WHO, approximately one million people commit suicide per year worldwide. This works out to about one suicide-related death every 40 seconds, or 3,000 per day. To top it off, for every single person that takes his or her own life, at least twenty will attempt to do so and these figures are on the rise.
Suicide and Addiction
Without diving too deep into the stats and all of the “whys” associated with deaths due to suicide, let’s look at the relationship between substance abuse (or drug and alcohol addiction) and suicide. While depression and other mood disorders are the number one risk factor for suicide, alcohol and drug abuse come in at a close second. People with substance abuse issues are about six times more likely to commit suicide than those without, so why on earth doesn’t anyone talk about this?
Why the Correlation Between Suicide and Drug & Alcohol Addiction or Abuse?
Drug and Alcohol Abuse can lead to Risky Behavior: There are numerous reasons why the suicide risk factor is so much higher for individuals with substance abuse issues. For starters, drugs and alcohol can make people take risks that they wouldn’t normally take, suicide being just one of them. Many addicts are already prone to mood disorders like depression. When under the influence, the likelihood increases that one might actually follow through with a suicide attempt if he or she has had thoughts of doing so already.
Getting Clean and Actually Starting to Feel our Feelings: As addicts, when we get clean from drugs and alcohol, we generally aren’t used to feeling our feelings. Substances are often abused in order to numb out and avoid feelings of depression, anger, jealousy, and the list goes on. When we get sober, however, we suddenly have no means of escaping these unpleasant emotions and this can lead to suicidal thoughts in some cases. It’s one of the many reasons why it’s important for any addict attempting to get clean to make sure that he or she is not doing so alone. This means checking yourself into a drug and alcohol treatment center or residential rehab, seeking counseling, attending twelve step meetings, or all of the above.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Can Trigger Depression: It goes without saying that most people who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction have abused substances on numerous occasions. Abuse of substances – particularly depressants like alcohol, sedatives, and opioids – can trigger episodes of depression, sometimes leading to suicidal thoughts and, in extreme cases, actual suicide. And, so, the list goes on and the cycle continues – addiction can lead to drug abuse, which can lead to suicidal thoughts, which can, yes, lead to actual suicide.
Drug and Alcohol Abuse Resulting in Negative Situations: While there are a handful of addicts who manage to maintain relatively stable lifestyles despite active addiction, the vast majority have a tendency to create at least some wreckage in their lives (and quite often, lots of wreckage). This includes things like job loss, divorce, homelessness, and child custody battles, among other things. In the case of the active addict, negative situations are generally the result of behaviors linked to drug and alcohol abuse. Circumstances like these can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair and, sometimes, suicide. Are you sensing a pattern here?
Please note: we’re not claiming that all addicts are suicidal, but it’s important to address the fact that there’s historically been a very strong connection between drug and alcohol addiction, and suicide. It’s not something that’s frequently discussed, and having suicidal thoughts is something that really should be talked about openly with a sponsor, counselor, or other trusted confidante. These people may not be able to provide direct treatment, but they can hopefully serve as a sounding board and provide advice on who to contact. Hiding your thoughts of suicide from others, however, is dangerous territory.
The above list accounts for just a handful of theories in relation to why there’s a correlation between suicide and addiction. There are many more out there, but the long and short of it is that if you or someone you love is having suicidal thoughts, there should be absolutely no shame in discussing it. You’re not alone, and sometimes just a simple phone call can end up saving your (or your loved ones’) life.
Kembali Recovery Center is Here for you…
If you or someone that you love is battling addiction and simultaneously having suicidal thoughts, we strongly urge you to talk to your therapist, or find an organization near you that specializes in suicide prevention. For all other issues surrounding drug and alcohol addiction, Kembali Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us today to learn all about our four-week drug and alcohol treatment program. Our next intake is just around the corner.