Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with one suicide death reported in the United States every 11.5 minutes.1 While the circumstances surrounding these deaths differ from case to case, drug use often plays a role. Statistics show that those who use drugs are 14 times more likely to die by suicide. 2
When looking at those statistics, it’s vital to examine the link between drug use, mental health, and suicide. Knowing the risk factors involved can help to detect when a loved one is having trouble and help them get the treatment they need before it’s too late. We will look at these risk factors, how substances affect the brain, and how treatment at Desert Cove Recovery can help those dealing with a substance abuse disorder.
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The Link Between Mental Health, Suicide, and Drug Use
The link between mental health, drug use, and suicide is a dangerous domino effect. Many people who are dealing with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, turn to drugs and alcohol to cope. This coping mechanism can lead to addiction, which can then cause some people to have suicidal thoughts.
Studies have shown that more than half of all suicide deaths are linked to drug or alcohol dependence, and at least 25% of people with a drug or alcohol addiction end their own lives.3. Genetics and how substances affect the brain can make some people more likely to consider suicide than those not using drugs.
How Substances Affect the Brain
When someone uses drugs, it can alter their brain’s pleasure and reward system. Over time and with increased drug use, the brain begins to prefer drugs over other activities that would have created feelings of euphoria. This makes the person want more of the drug to achieve these feelings.
Substances impact the brain’s chemistry by changing the neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood and judgment.3 This is why people may begin to feel hopeless and pull back from relationships. This can lead to dangerous actions, such as contemplating suicide. Studies have shown that people with substance abuse disorders are at a higher risk of impulsively attempting suicide.4
The Role of Genetics on Substance Abuse & Suicide
When looking at mental health, suicide, and drug use, it’s also important to consider genetics’s role. Someone with a family history of addiction is more likely to develop similar issues. It’s important to be aware of family history to know if you or a loved one may be at greater risk of following the same path.
Genetics can also play a role in developing mental health issues which can lead someone to attempt suicide. Issues like depression can increase someone’s risk of suicide. 5
When you factor in all of these pieces, you can get a clearer picture of drug use and mental health and how they can affect someone contemplating suicide.
Risk Factors for Substance Abuse
While people may turn to drugs for various reasons, there are several common risk factors for drug use. These include: 6
- Financial Problems
- Peer Pressure
- Family History of Drug Use
- Childhood Trauma
Knowing these risk factors can help detect a substance abuse problem in a loved one.
Risk Factors for Suicide
Several risk factors can also make someone more prone to have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide. While this may not also be the case, it’s important to look for these signs: 7
- Family Problems
- Substance Abuse
- Prolonged Stress
Common Risk Factors
As you can see, there are several common risk factors when discussing suicide and substance abuse. Depression, anxiety, financial problems, and family history are all shared risk factors that need to be considered when looking at the correlation between mental health, drug use, and suicide.
Warning Signs of Suicide
When you know someone is at a greater risk of attempting suicide, you want to watch for several warning signs that they need help. Even if they may not fit the mold of being at greater risk, any of the following behaviors can be red flags that should not be ignored: 7
- Talking about killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling trapped
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Not participating in activities they used to enjoy
- Saying goodbye to people
- Hurting others
These are all warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide. If you notice any of these behaviors, you’ll want to reach out before it’s too late. People often think they’ll “just get over it” when in reality, there are real problems that can lead to dangerous actions.
How Addiction Can Lead to Suicide
Drug use can lead to mental health issues and suicidal thoughts for several different reasons. When people are using drugs, they may begin to feel hopeless. Due to drug use, relationships may be broken, they may lose their jobs, or develop health issues. Any of these scenarios can lead someone to believe their situation is beyond hope.
When people are unhappy or depressed, they can start to use drugs. Over time, this can lead to a downward spiral of emotions that someone may feel as though they can’t escape from. These feelings of unhappiness can seem like they are too tough to bear. This is why it’s important to recognize the warning signs of suicide to help people deal with these feelings and realize that it is never too late to ask for help.
Addiction can also lead to poor choices, making many people regret their actions. When several unhealthy decisions are made, it can cause feelings of shame and guilt that may be difficult to shake. These feelings can make someone feel like they don’t deserve to live.
Many people who are addicted to drugs often criticize themselves, which results in a feeling of defeat. This can especially be true if someone sought treatment in the past and later relapsed. They may feel as though they will never be able to rise above their substance use disorder and live a sober life.
Feelings of loneliness resulting from addiction can also lead to suicidal thoughts. Drug use can cause people to withdraw from family and friends as they shift their focus to their drug of choice. This can make people feel lonely and as though they can’t escape their feelings.
Many people dealing with addiction are not only struggling with these feelings, but they may be also dealing with feelings of low self-esteem. Feeling like they are not worthy of anything can prompt thoughts of wanting to harm themselves.
Helping Those with Drug Use & Suicidal Thoughts
Contacting a mental health professional can be the best way to get help for a loved one who is struggling with a substance use disorder and suicidal thoughts.
Typically, mental health issues are treated simultaneously as a substance use disorder. This is referred to as a dual diagnosis. This can be the best way to combat the problem and prevent relapse. Since mental health issues may drive some substance use disorders, it’s important to treat them simultaneously.
Dual diagnosis treatment combines the best aspects of substance abuse treatment and mental health care. Treating both conditions at the same time can help to decrease depression after treatment. Continued aftercare is another important piece of the puzzle that can reduce the chances of relapse and prevent someone from having suicidal thoughts.
There are also suicide helplines available for those who may be having troublesome thoughts. These hotlines are available 24/7 to help people who find themselves in a dangerous situation.
Treatment for Drug Use at Desert Cove Recovery
At Desert Cove Recovery, we offer treatment for drug use and those with a dual diagnosis. We offer drug treatment plans that are tailored to the individual. We understand that everyone’s addiction is different, and their treatment must reflect that. This is why we work diligently to find a plan that suits each person.
Our experienced staff also recognizes the importance of dual diagnosis treatment to help those who are also dealing with mental health issues. This type of treatment can include cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, and in some cases, medication.
At Desert Cove Recovery, we also offer mental health treatment with customized programs. We focus on each person’s specific needs to develop a plan that will give them the most success.
If you or a loved one is ready to commit to a treatment program, the staff at Desert Cove Recovery is ready to help. Call us today or reach out to us online to learn more about how our programs can help you turn your life around.