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Does Addiction Increase Suicide Risks?

Addiction to drugs and alcohol can increase a person’s risk of suicidal ideations and behaviors. The connection between addiction and suicide risks stems from a multitude of factors. One of the most prevalent factors is an underlying mental health disorder.

Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, understands the link between mental health and addiction. That is why we offer dual diagnosis treatment for those with both disorders. By treating the underlying causes of addiction, we hope to lower the risk of suicidal behaviors and ideations in those who struggle.

How Addiction and Suicide Are Linked

The most common link between addiction and suicide has to do with underlying mental health symptoms. According to MedlinePlus, “About half of people who have a mental disorder will also have a substance use disorder at some point in their lives and vice versa.”

Thus, a person with an addiction is more likely to have a mental health disorder. And, this disorder can worsen with continued substance misuse, leading to a worsening of symptoms—including suicidality. 

Oftentimes, people with an addiction use drugs and alcohol as a maladaptive coping mechanism for an untreated mental health disorder. In addition, suicidal ideations or behaviors can be a symptom of mental health disorders, such as depression, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Warning Signs of Suicide

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following are warning signs that a person is at an increased risk of suicide:

  • Saying that they feel like a burden to others
  • Spending time alone and isolated
  • Increase in anxiety and excessive worry
  • Feeling trapped or in insufferable pain
  • Acquiring lethal objects, like guns or knives
  • Increased irritability, anger, or hostility
  • Mood swings
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Talking about death or a desire to die
  • Posting about death on social media
  • Having a specific plan to commit suicide

In addition to the above-mentioned warning signs of suicide, if the person already misuses substances, they might increase their use. Alternatively, a person who never or rarely uses substances could begin drinking or doing drugs. Addiction and suicide risks are also linked because people are often more reckless when under the influence.

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Hotline offers support to those at risk. They also help family members and loved ones with prevention resources when they are worried about another’s risk of suicide.

Factors Between Addiction and Suicide

There are some common factors between addiction and suicide risks. For one, people with addiction tend to be more likely to struggle with impulse control. They are also more likely to engage in risky behaviors. Chronic substance use can also alter a person’s brain and increase their risk of suicide.

Impulsivity and Risk-Taking Behaviors

According to Current Addiction Reports, “Among people with an underlying vulnerability to risk-taking and impulsive behaviors, chronic alcohol intoxication can increase maladaptive coping behaviors and hinder self-regulation, thereby increasing the risk of suicide.”

Thus, problems with impulse control can be both a cause of and an effect of substance misuse. For instance, some people misuse stimulant drugs to increase their focus and concentration. However, many drugs also lead to a decrease in impulse control by lowering a person’s inhibitions.

Similar things can be said about substance misuse and risk-taking. A person more willing to take risks might be more willing to experiment with drug use, for example. At the same time, substance misuse can leave a person feeling euphoric or invulnerable. Thus, the person is more likely to engage in risky or reckless behavior.

Neurobiology and Negative Affect

The above-mentioned article by Current Addiction Reports also states that “chronic opioid use can result in neurobiological changes that lead to increases in negative affective states, jointly contributing to suicide risk and continued opioid use.” The increase in negative affective states—emotions like guilt, stress, sadness, shame, worry, and anger—worsens a person’s overall mental health.

Thus, addiction creates a cycle of worsening mental health symptoms as the person misuses substances to try to cope with these symptoms. Since suicidal ideations and behaviors are among the most severe symptoms of mental health disorders. As the cycle of addiction continues, the person is at a higher risk of suicide.

Treating both the addiction and the underlying mental health disorder reduces the risk of suicide. 

Treatment for Addiction and Suicide Risks

Treating a dual diagnosis of addiction and the risk of suicide due to a mental health disorder involves addressing both disorders at the same time. Since substance use and mental health disorders commonly co-occur, many rehab facilities offer support for both. By treating both disorders together, clients will have better treatment outcomes. 

Treatment for a dual diagnosis at a rehab center usually requires that a person is not actively suicidal. A short-term stay in an inpatient facility, like a psychiatric hospital, can help a person stabilize while keeping them safe from harm. After that, they can move on to lower levels of care, like residential treatment or outpatient services.

Each person’s treatment plan at Harmony Place is tailored to meet their unique needs. Thus, we offer several types of therapies, including:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational enhancement therapy (MET)
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)

These therapies can include individual or group processing therapy—or a combination of both. Our therapy programs treat several mental health disorders linked to suicidal ideations and behaviors.

Get Help for Addiction and Suicide Risks Today

The best way to prevent suicide is by getting treatment for mental health symptoms. When people leave their symptoms untreated, they are more likely to misuse substances to self-medicate. This, in turn, increases their risk of developing an addiction and the risk of suicidality.

Harmony Place in Los Angeles, California, is here to help those struggling with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders. Contact us to get help today.