Are the Suicide and Addiction Epidemics Linked?

11 June 2018

While the world was still reeling from the suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and culinary icon Anthony Bourdain, they were also coming to the tragic realization that suicide is affecting more and more of their friends and neighbors each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new and alarming data that indicates an escalating trend of suicide in the United States. From 1999-2016, suicides rose consistently in practically every state in the nation. In 2016 alone, over 45,000 Americans over the age of 10 took their own lives. At the same time, Americans are seeing higher rates of drug overdose and consistent rates of alcohol-related fatalities. It’s worth examining the link between suicide and addiction.

A Complex Relationship

Drug and alcohol addiction is the second-leading risk factor for suicide, right after depression. Individuals suffering from substance use disorder (SUD) are six times more likely to take their own lives than those who are sober. Alcoholics, specifically, are five times more likely to attempt suicide. Approximately one third of individuals who die from suicide are under the influence of drugs, typically opiates such as oxycodone or heroin, or alcohol. Poisoning is the third-leading method used in suicide deaths, and drugs make up 75 percent of suicide deaths due to poisoning. Suicide and addiction are also connected by the methods in which addicts to choose to take their own lives, often administering what they know will be a fatal dose of drugs or engaging in extremely high-risk behavior while intoxicated.

Causes of Suicide-Related Addiction

Suicide and addiction often intersect through SUD sufferers’ inability to stay sober, cope with the pain and sickness of withdrawal and repair to their lives after they leave treatment. Even those who successfully complete an inpatient or outpatient program often have trouble transitioning back into their lives and families once they leave treatment; this is why it’s so critically important that they have aftercare plans to help them avoid relapse and achieve lasting mental health. If you’re struggling with addiction and contemplating suicide, or you know anyone else who is engaged in a similar struggle, get help immediately before it’s too late.