Substance abuse can have detrimental effects on one’s health, interpersonal relationships, and finances. It can also turn deadly, as substance abuse has a frightening association with suicide. Researchers have found that approximately 90 percent of individuals who commit suicide meet the diagnostic criteria of at least one mental illness. Since mental illness is a common risk factor for substance abuse, data reveals that suicide attempts are nearly six times more likely than among non-drug-users. Further exploring suicidal risk factors, researchers have found that heroin is one of the abused substances most commonly associated with suicidal behavior.
If you fear one of your loved ones is abusing drugs or alcohol, take the time to understand the risk factors that connect substance abuse and suicide, familiarize yourself with signs of suicidal ideation, and with available support resources so that you can help to intervene early and effectively.
The Mental Health Conditions That are Risk Factors for Substance Abuse and Suicide
Depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are three mental health conditions frequently diagnosed in tandem with substance abuse and suicidal ideation. Individuals suffering from these and other mental health conditions who have not obtained support and treatment may be likely to turn to drug or alcohol use to cope with the symptoms and side effects of their condition. Many patients often describe turning to prescribed or illicit painkillers to ease the physical and emotional pain of depression, or to heroin to help them temporarily forget their fears or their inability to focus.
Understand the Danger that Opioids Pose as Suicide Enablement Tools
Not only does substance abuse put users at a higher risk of suicide, but drugs, such as opioids can also be used by those suffering from an underlying mental health condition as a means of suicide, in addition to posing a threat of accidental overdose. Individuals who become increasingly desperate to escape feelings of isolation, despair, and hopelessness, who continuously rely on higher doses of drugs to chase the high they feel they need to escape, may eventually turn to suicide when they can no longer obtain the drugs they believe they need to achieve a sense of normalcy.
Signs of Suicidal Ideation
If undetected, an individual coping with mental illness and drug addiction could turn to desperate measures. The following are common signs and signals that a loved one may be at risk of suicidal behavior:
- They begin to isolate themselves, cutting off ties and communications with friends and family.
- Their drug dependence escalates to the point where they seem not to be able to cope for any length of time without relying on their drug(s) of choice.
- They demonstrate severe, sometimes violent mood swings.
- They participate in self-destructive behavior, such as physically dangerous activities, frequent unprotected sex, or self-harm.
- They take steps that they claim are being done to “get their affairs in order.”
- They verbalize feelings of hopelessness, being trapped, believing they are unloved or feeling like they are a burden to those around them.
- Expressing that they want to die or stop their pain.
If you fear your loved one may be suffering from a mental health condition, or that he or she is already demonstrating some of the suicidal signs listed above, help him or her to obtain treatment and support before they turn to dangerous coping mechanisms out of desperation. Professional resources are available to help treat the underlying health conditions that are causing dependence on opioids—or thoughts of suicide.
Please call Horizon’s patient support specialists at (716) 831-1800 for non emergency situations. And in case of an emergency or imminent threat of suicide call 9-1-1 or crisis services of WNY at (716) 834-3131