Substance Abuse and Suicide
Substance abuse is associated with an increased risk for suicide. Research suggests that substance abuse is second only to depression and other mood disorders in terms of suicide risk. While 95% of persons with a mental health or substance use disorder, or both, will not die by suicide, research suggests that up to 90% of persons who do die by suicide experience a mental health and/or substance use disorder. Additionally, SAMHSA reports that alcohol and suicide attempts are often related, with alcohol present in the bloodstream of up to one third of people who attempt suicide
Alcohol can affect a person’s suicide risk in a number of different ways. Alcohol intoxication reduces a person’s level of inhibition and increases the risk of acting impulsively. Increased impulsivity may increase the risk of self-destructive acts in people who are already suicidal. Also, suicide attempts while under the influence of alcohol tend to involve more lethal means, such as firearms.
Alcohol can lead to an increase in feelings of depression and worthlessness, which may contribute to suicide attempts or suicide deaths. Alcohol impairs the decision-making process and, in some people, increases aggressive behavior, both of which can have lethal consequences.
Many of the risk factors for suicide in the general population apply to those with substance use disorders. Older males with substance use disorders are at greater risk for suicide attempts and for death by suicide. Previous suicide attempts are a strong risk factor for subsequent suicidal behaviors in those with substance use disorders, just as they are for those in the general population.
Addressing Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors in Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol TIP 50: This guide provides expert recommendations to help substance abuse counselors and administrators working with those with substance use disorders. It is available for free through SAMHSA.
South Dakota Division of Community Behavioral Health’s mission is to ensure children and adults with mental health disorders and chemical dependency issues in South Dakota communities have the opportunity to choose and receive effective services needed to promote resilience and recovery. Their website contains information on community behavioral health services across the state including detoxification, inpatient and outpatient services.