In the last few decades substance abuse, addiction, and suicide have become public health issues. Drugs, alcohol, and suicide have taken far too many lives. These are topics that need to be discussed. Talking about addiction and suicide is important. People that struggle with these feelings need to talk about them. Shying away from talking about issues that have made an impact like addiction and suicide have, is not only dangerous, but deadly.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that each year about one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of 16 people per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds. It is predicted that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one every 20 seconds. These numbers are shocking. Suicide has not really gotten the spotlight it truly deserves. This is something that we need to start talking about. Suicide risk is higher among those who have experienced violence, child abuse, bullying, sexual assault, and substance abuse. People thinking about or attempting suicide has risen to a disturbing number. In 2017, 10.6 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan, and 1.4 million attempted suicide. Suicide effects all ages. It is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age. We have 10 year-olds considering suicide. There is a suicide hotline that is available 24/7. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Substance abuse and addiction are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are different. Someone can abuse a substance without having an addiction, but in most cases substance abuse leads to an addiction. For example, someone may repeatedly take a friend’s anxiety medication because they are feeling anxious rather than going to a doctor to discuss a possible anxiety disorder. They may still have some control over their lives, but they are abusing that substance. Abusing prescription medication is a fast track to an addiction. According to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2017 19.7 people struggled with a substance abuse disorder in the US.
Addiction is compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance despite any negative consequences. Addiction leaves the addict or alcoholic with little to no control over their lives. As of 2017, almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction. The most addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine, meth, or prescription drugs take the biggest toll on the brain. Drugs change the brain’s chemistry. Drugs force the brain to release ‘feel good’ chemicals like dopamine. The brain will become dependent on the drug to release those chemicals. That is how an addict’s or alcoholic’s tolerance begins to build. After time, the brain will need more and more of that drug to forcibly release those chemicals.
Substance abuse and addiction change the important things in people’s lives. Drugs and alcohol force priorities to change. Family, friends, school, or work take a backseat. The things that used to be fun no longer make them happy anymore. As addiction progresses, it becomes only about the next fix or next sip of booze. That is a depressing feeling.
Addiction and Mental Illness
Addiction and mental health are related. There is a high percentage of addicts and alcoholics that also have a mental illness. This is called a dual diagnosis. In 2014, 7.9 million people had a substance abuse problem and another mental illness. That number has only risen since then. Addicts and alcoholics may not even realize they have a mental illness. People suffering from addiction are much less likely to seek help for a mental illness. Mental illnesses like depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia can go undiagnosed. People suffering from mental illnesses like these can use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. This can not only lead to an addiction, but it can mask or worsen the underlying problem. People actively using are at a higher risk because they do not seek out or keep up with treatments.
What is the Connection?
Everyday approximately 123 million people die by suicide, according to the CDC. Thoughts of suicide effect all ages. In 2017, 10.6 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million made a plan, and 1.4 million attempted suicide. Mental illnesses and addictions can drive thoughts of suicide. Feelings of stress, regret, shame, or guilt weigh heavily on addicts and alcoholics.
Numerous studies of individuals in drug and alcohol treatment show that past suicide attempts and current suicidal thoughts are common. People with a substance abuse problem or an addiction are 6 times more likely to consider suicide.
Emerging research suggests that some individuals with particular types of substance abuse problems may be more likely to engage in suicidal behaviors.
For example, people who use opiates, cocaine, meth, or sedatives may have a noticeably higher risk of suicide than those who use other drugs. The way that drugs and alcohol affect the brain can cause thoughts of suicide.
This is truly a public health concern considering such high numbers for both addiction and suicide. The number of people with an addiction, suicidal thoughts, or both are on the rise. We lose too many people per year to let these numbers continue to rise.
There is help for anyone suffering. If you are feeling alone- reach out!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Getting Help For Addiction
The first step to sobriety for many individuals is to undergo professional treatment in a rehab facility. Just Believe Recovery offers inpatient detox, as well as comprehensive care and programs that feature evidence-based services, including psychotherapy, counseling, and group support. We seek to address all aspects of a person’s emotional and physical health, as well as their addiction and all the factors that contribute to it.
Call us today if you are ready to free yourself from the chains of addiction and reclaim the healthy and satisfying life you deserve!