By Sandy Baker
Substance abuse is one of the biggest risks to suicide.
If your loved one is battling drug and alcohol addiction, it is very important to keep a close watch on them as the drugs themselves can increase the chances of suicide.
Understanding the Suicide Risk
For those recovering from drug and alcohol abuse, the risk of suicide will remain high for some time. Those who are using, on the path to recovery, or even ten years out are battling fierce demons that can destroy their overall ability to see “good” in life. More so, they face unique challenges that often seem insurmountable and, many times, those struggles are compounded with a hereditary predisposition to suicidal thoughts and depression. All of this increases the likelihood of suicide even when a person seems to be doing well with recovery.
Does Alcohol and Drug Use Increase the Risk of Suicide?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services points out that numerous surveys have found a direct connection between alcohol and drug use and an increased risk of suicide. For example, in areas where the legal drinking age is lower, teen suicides are higher. Those who drink and suffer from depression (or have an increased risk of depression due to genetic makeup or other predisposition) are more likely to commit suicide.
Some medications increase the risk of suicidal tendencies, and those who abuse these medications or combine them with others may experience a higher level of risk. The mixing of substances of any form along with mental health problems creates an incredibly intense level of risk for the individual. That is because many drugs and all alcohol work as a mood enhancer, changing the mental state of an individual. For those who are abusing these chemicals, it is clear that the risks become wide open for suicide.
Recognize the Signs of Suicidal Tendencies
The most essential way you, as a loved one of someone battling depression, suicidal thoughts, or drug and alcohol addiction, can help is to recognize when a person needs help. Most people will not communicate their thoughts clearly, and most will also spend a long time considering suicide before they even show signs. Realize that these signs mean it is time to take action. Save.org provides some insight into the warning signs of suicide including the following:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- Looking for ways to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling as though they are a burden to others
- Extreme mood swings
- Anxiousness, agitation, or recklessness
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness, having no purpose, feeling trapped, or being unable to overcome pain
- Expressing feelings of isolation
- Expressing rage or talking about seeking revenge
If your loved one is expressing any of these signs of suicide, it is time to act. The initial step is to call 911 for immediate medical help. That’s important. You need to recognize that this type of mental state is a life-threatening situation. Seeking help provides an opportunity for an individual to get the help they need to stabilize themselves so that long-term therapy and improvement become possible.
On the Right Path Forward
Getting care for your loved one is essential, but where do you start? For some, it may seem as though the drugs and alcohol are the focal point, the underlying problem associated with the individual’s suicide. That is not always the case. In others, mental illness is the root cause that leads to alcohol and drug use as a way to control symptoms, even though this often worsens them.
Treatment needs to address both facets. It is not possible to address suicidal thoughts and depression without treating the drug and alcohol abuse. The two are interlinking in most cases. The first step tends to be a detox to remove the chemicals from the body, worsening the depressive state. From there, it is important to address both the underlying cause of the mental health concerns and the individual’s chemical imbalances.
What to Do Right Now
When a loved one is communicating suicidal thoughts or actions, do not try to just “help.” You need to reach out to a professional who can help guide them towards a path of managing both of their illnesses – drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental health concerns. Both of these conditions are diseases, not treatable by simply not using drugs or alcohol or just being happy.
Once you recognize the seriousness of the issue, it is possible to provide your loved one with the help he or she needs. Getting the initial help isn’t a challenge, as simply calling 911 will address the immediate threat. However, it becomes imperative for individuals to receive ongoing support and care, like that which we offer at The Ranch at Dove Tree. Don’t delay in helping your loved one to receive the treatment he or she needs for both drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness. Contact us today for immediate help.