Connection Between Addiction and Suicidal Behavior

addiction and suicideA life lost to suicide leaves behind grieving friends, families and communities. It leaves everyone wondering why. It leaves everyone wondering what they could have done differently. It is not hard to find a life touched by suicide and loss. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[1] reports that suicide is the 10th most common cause of death. In 2014, 42,773 people died as a result of suicide. Many of these deaths were related to substance abuse and addiction. Many future deaths can be prevented through effective, comprehensive addiction treatment.

Are Addiction and Suicide Related?

Addiction and suicide share a complex relationship. Addiction contributes to suicide risk. The National Council on Behavioral Health[2] shares, “Alcohol and drug abuse are second only to depression and other mood disorders as the most frequent risk factors for suicidal behavior.” Psychiatric Times[3] elaborates on the suicide risks associated with substance abuse: “Men with a substance use disorder are approximately 2.3 times more likely to die by suicide than those who are not substance abusers. Among women, a substance use disorder increases the risk of suicide 6.5-fold.” Substance use does more than slightly increase suicide risk. It significantly contributes to the likelihood of serious self-harm or death. Substance use can lead to feelings of depression and can worsen pre-existing mental health issues. Since depression and mood disorders are also risk factors for addiction, individuals commonly struggle with all three concerns.

Is My Loved One at Risk for Suicide?

Identifying suicide risk factors is the first step in addressing the issue and getting help for a friend or family member. While any substance use comes with increased risk of suicidal behavior, other factors increase this risk further. Psychiatric Times identifies some more specific risk factors relating to substance use and addiction. These include the following:

  • Older men who misuse substances are at greater risk for suicide attempts than younger men
  • Individuals with past suicide attempts are likely to engage in suicidal behavior again
  • Depression or depressed mood increase the risk of suicide for individuals both with and without substance use disorders
  • Other pre-existing or substance-induced mood disorders lead to increased risk of suicidal behavior
  • Individuals who use drugs such as cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines are more likely to attempt suicide
  • Recent increases in amount, frequency and severity of alcohol and other drug use is related to increased suicide risk
  • Individuals who use alcohol and other drugs are at increased risk for suicidal behavior

Overall, the worse a substance abuse or addiction problem, the more likely suicide becomes. The more substances involved, the greater the risk. The more mental health concerns complicate the situation, the more likely suicidal behavior becomes. However a person does not have to have a severe mental health or addiction issue to be at risk. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services[4] explains, “Misuse can be of low severity and temporary, but it can also result in serious, enduring, and costly consequences due to motor vehicle crashes, intimate partner and sexual violence, child abuse and neglect, suicide attempts and fatalities, overdose deaths, various forms of cancer, heart and liver diseases, HIV/AIDS, and problems related to drinking or using drugs during pregnancy.” If you suspect a loved one is using drugs or alcohol, he or she is at risk. He or she is at risk not just for suicide but for other preventable death. Addiction is a deadly problem. It is a growing problem.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues, “Alcohol misuse contributes to 88,000 deaths in the United States each year; 1 in 10 deaths among working adults are due to alcohol misuse. In addition, in 2014 there were 47,055 drug overdose deaths including 28,647 people who died from a drug overdose involving some type of opioid, including prescription pain relievers and heroin—more than in any previous year on record.” The statistics are grim, but addiction is a treatable disease. Your loved one doesn’t have to experience any more consequences of use. Suicide can be prevented.

How to Treat Addiction and Prevent Suicide

Treat addiction and prevent suicide by identifying substance use issues. Understand the connection between mental health issues, substance abuse and suicidal behavior. Get effective, professional care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shares, “Substance use disorders can be effectively treated, with recurrence rates no higher than those for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. With comprehensive continuing care, recovery is now an achievable outcome.” You can find a balanced, drug-free life for yourself or a loved one.

Recovery is real and possible for everyone. Learn more by calling an accredited treatment center such as The Canyon. We provide free assessments and help you identify the mental health and substance use concerns complicating your or a loved one’s life. We offer comprehensive, integrated care that addresses mental health and addiction for complete health and wellness. Take action. Prevent suicide.


[1] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. “Leading Causes of Death.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 7 Oct 2016. Web. 10 Jan 2017.

[2] https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/lindas-corner-office/2013/09/suicide-and-addictions-the-neglected-link/. “Suicide and Addictions: The Neglected Link.” National Council for Behavioral Health. 10 Sep 2013. Web. 10 Jan 2017.

[3] http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/substance-use-disorder/link-between-substance-abuse-violence-and-suicide. “The Link Between Substance Abuse, Violence, and Suicide.” Psychiatric Times. 20 Jan 2011. Web. 10 Jan 2017.

[4] https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/surgeon-generals-report.pdf. Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2016. Web. 10 Jan 2017.

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