Substance abuse and suicide are closely related. The use of substances, especially alcohol, is linked to a higher risk of suicide. The statistics surrounding suicide and substance abuse are alarming. There are nearly 41,000 suicides in the United States each year. Approximately 20% of suicides include opioids or prescription painkillers, and about 22% involve alcohol or intoxication. About 8% of adults have a substance use disorder, and women are four times more likely than men to complete suicide.
To better understand the unique risks that people with substance use disorders and suicidal thoughts face, it helps to understand addiction and how it affects the brain. It is also important for loved ones to recognize the signs of a substance use disorder and suicidal ideation to help someone.
Understanding Substance Abuse and the Science of Addiction
Although substance abuse and addiction are two terms that people use interchangeably, they differ. Substance abuse is misusing a substance by taking too much of it, taking it too often, or taking it when medically unnecessary. Misusing substances in these manners can lead to addiction, which is a disease. Addiction happens when someone cannot stop taking a substance despite knowing and feeling the harm it causes.
Addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disease that physically alters the brain. The changes in brain activity are visible on brain scans. As people continue to use substances, their brain activity shows negative changes. After a person stops using a substance and stays sober for several months, brain scans can show improvements.
What makes addiction such a dangerous disease is that it impairs higher reasoning and judgment. People often behave irrationally, and the substances they use can change how the brain perceives rewards. This gives individuals strong urges to seek more satisfaction from substance use.
Symptoms of a Substance Use Disorder
The symptoms and signs of addiction are similar. They include both physical and psychological aspects. These are some symptoms that people may recognize in themselves or in loved ones:
- Sudden and unusual secrecy and solitude
- Unusual talkativeness, energy, lethargy, or sleepiness
- Taking excessive risks to use or buy more of the substance
- New and unusual financial or legal problems related to the substance
- Withdrawing from social activities, school, work, and family gatherings
- Mood swings and irritability, especially when confronted about using a substance
- Being excessively protective of a bag, a drawer, or another place where a substance is kept
- Sacrificing family, friends, work, or other important commitments to buy or use the substance
The signs that a person sees in another individual who is using a substance can vary based on the substance. For example, someone who is misusing alcohol or painkillers may appear sleepy, lethargic, and moody. Someone who is misusing stimulants may be unusually peppy, talkative, and energetic. Most people who have a substance use disorder or addiction show multiple signs.
Understanding Suicidal Ideation and Its Causes
Suicidal ideation is a difficult subject for people to discuss. When a friend, family member, or colleague shares these thoughts, it is important to listen and know when to seek help. In many cases, suicidal ideation is tied to an underlying mental health issue. Depression, bipolar disorder, and other mood disorders may cause people to think about or attempt suicide. In some cases, the medications to treat mood disorders may also create suicidal thoughts.
These intrusive ideas and thoughts are not always the result of a mental health disorder. People who have multiple problems, even if they may be temporary, may feel so unable to cope that they feel like suicide is the only solution. For example, someone who loses a job and experiences serious legal trouble at the same time may feel so overwhelmed by the pressure that suicidal thoughts develop. Depression or the feeling of hopelessness because of life’s situations are two common reasons for suicidal ideation.
Symptoms of Suicidal Ideation
Not all people will directly talk about their suicidal thoughts. While some may, others will be more discreet and say things that are related to possibly attempting suicide. These are some symptoms to watch for:
- Increasing substance misuse
- Displaying excessive mood swings
- Feeling preoccupied with death or violence
- Indirect statements about committing suicide
- Continually feeling hopeless or trapped in life
- Experiencing changes in sleep, eating habits, or personality
- Self-isolating and giving up social activities for no apparent reason
- Saying goodbye to people like it will be the last time for no reason
- Engaging in risky activities, such as irresponsible drug use, speeding, or something else.
- Taking steps to possibly commit suicide, such as stockpiling a substance or purchasing a firearm
- Giving away important belongings and preparing for death in other ways, such as making funeral arrangements
Encourage anyone who displays these signs to seek professional help. Check on the person frequently. It helps to contact a treatment facility to know when to call 911 or have medical staff intervene. People who recognize these symptoms in themselves should call 911 or contact a treatment facility to get the help they need to live a happier life.
How Substance Abuse and Suicidal Ideation Are Related
Many people who turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with life’s struggles have a mental health disorder or feel hopeless. The negative effects of depression, anxiety, stress, and other problems create emotional pain. Substances may be like a bandage on a wound for people with these issues. The bandage may provide temporary relief, but the wound is still there when it comes off.
Several national surveys showed that lower minimum drinking age and the availability of prescription painkillers increased the rates of suicide. This was especially true among teens and young adults. Suicidal ideation was a common self-reported issue among many participants who drank alcohol. Additionally, people who misused substances and had a depressive disorder had a higher rate of reporting at least one suicide attempt in the past.
Substance abuse and completed suicide occurs more commonly among younger adults than older adults. In addition to having mental health struggles, people who think about or attempt suicide often face other risk factors. They may face economic hardship, family pressure, work troubles, job loss, or something else that is overwhelming. Also, they tend to have more financial and social troubles. The effects of mental health issues and substance misuse lead to riskier behaviors and a lack of judgment.
Why Treatment for Both Issues Is Critical
With substance abuse, the first and most important step is detox to rid the body of the substance. During detox, a person stays under the supervision of medical professionals 24/7. They can provide medications and care to make any unpleasant effects of detox more tolerable. Also, they provide compassionate support and other forms of care to treat the entire person, including mind, spirit, and body.
Finding the cause of suicidal ideation is essential. It may be an untreated mood disorder or complex and sudden life trials that can lead to mental health issues. Treating the cause of the suicidal thoughts is the only way to potentially remove them. Therapists teach people how to identify their thoughts and the reasons for them or the reasons for behaviors. At the same time, they teach people effective strategies to communicate their needs to others. Professionals also teach people how to treat mental health issues, avoid addiction triggers or cope with trials in life.
Treating the cause of suicidal ideation along with substance abuse is such an important issue that SAMHSA and the National Alliance for Suicide Prevention developed a special program for workplaces to help employers and employees prevent suicide. The initiative included funding for health care services related to treating substance misuse and suicidal thoughts or actions. Also, it assists employers in promoting awareness and making care more accessible.
Finding Treatment for Suicidal Ideation and Substance Abuse in Florida
If you know someone who expresses suicidal ideation and is misusing substances, we are here to help. We understand that intervening in a complex situation is challenging and especially delicate when suicidal thoughts are involved. If you are considering seeking help for yourself, we encourage you to reach out and want you to know what we want to help. Our desire is to see you live the fuller, happier life you deserve.
At Coastal Detox, our professionals understand the complexities of substance abuse and addiction. Our team also understands the many causes of suicidal thoughts. We provide compassionate support and medical assistance for successful detox from a substance. We take a holistic approach to treat every person’s complete needs, and we also provide medication-assisted treatment for increased comfort.
Our Stuart facility takes pride in creating a private, safe and serene atmosphere. We welcome people from Stuart and nearby areas in Florida. For more information about treatment for substance abuse and suicidal ideation, please contact us.